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Full text of ""I conquered""

[LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF 
CALIFORNIA 

I SAN DIEGO j 



--.*f* 



DATE DUE 



GAYLORD 



"RINTED IN U.S 




"_I CONQUERED" 




Page 96 

The Captain tore at the shoulders and reck of the gray horse with 
his gleaming teclli 



"I Conquered 



By HAROLD TITUS 




With Frontispiece in Colors 
By CHARLES M. RUSSEU* 



A. L. BURT COMPANY 

Publishers New York 

Published by Arrangements with RAND. MCNALLY & COMPANY 



Copyright, 1916, 
By RAND MCNALLY & COMPANY 



THE CONTENTS 



I. DENUNCIATION 7 

II. A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST . . .21 

III. "I VE DONE MY PICKIN" .... 36 

IV. THE TROUBLE HUNTER 48 

V. JED PHILOSOPHIZES 62 

VI. AMBITION Is BORN 74 

VII. WITH HOOP AND TOOTH 89 

VIII. A HEAD OF YELLOW HAIR .... 98 

IX. PURSUIT 106 

X. CAPTURE 120 

XI. A LETTER AND A NARRATIVE . . .131 

XII. WOMAN WANTS 141 

XIII. VB FIGHTS 151 

XIV. THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE . . . .163 
XV. MURDER 181 

XVI. THE CANDLE BURNS 192 

XVII. GREAT MOMENTS 201 

XVIII. THE LIE 2x4 

XIX. THROUGH THE NIGHT 226 

XX. THE LAST STAND 235 

XXL GUNS CRASH 245 

XXII. TABLES TURN; AND TURN AGAIN . .254 

XXIII. LIFE, THE TROPHY 265 

XXIV. VICTORY 276 

XXV. "THE LIGHT!" 290 

XXVI. To THE VICTOR 297 



"_ I CONQUERED" 

CHAPTER I 

DENUNCIATION 

DANNY LENOX wanted a drink. The desire 
came to him suddenly as he stood looking 
down at the river, burnished by bright young day. 
It broke in on his lazy contemplation, wiped out 
the indulgent smile, and made the young face 
serious, purposeful, as though mighty consequence 
depended on satisfying the urge that had just 
come up within him. 

He was the sort of chap to whom nothing much 
had ever mattered, whose face generally bore 
that kindly, contented smile. His grave con 
sideration had been aroused by only a scant 
variety of happenings from the time of a pam 
pered childhood up through the gamut of bubbling 
boyhood, prep school, university, polo, clubs, and 
a growing popularity with a numerous clan until 
he had approached a state of established and 
widely recognized worthlessness. 

Economics did not bother him. It mattered 
not how lavishly he spent ; there had always been 
more forthcoming, because Lenox senior had a 
world of the stuff. The driver of his taxicab 



8 "_I CONQUERED" 

just now whirling away seemed surprised when 
Danny waved back change, but the boy did 
not bother himself with thought of the bill he 
had handed over. 

Nor did habits which overrode established 
procedure for men cause him to class himself 
apart from the mass. He remarked that the 
cars zipping past between him and the high 
river embankment were stragglers in the morn 
ing flight businessward ; but he recognized no 
difference between himself and those who scooted 
toward town, intent on the furtherance of seri 
ous ends. 

What might be said or thought about his 
obvious deviation from beaten, respected paths 
was only an added impulse to keep smiling with 
careless amiability. It might be commented 
on behind fans in drawing rooms or through 
mouths full of food in servants halls, he knew. 
But it did not matter. 

However something mattered. He wanted 
a drink. 

And it was this thought that drove away the 
smile and set the lines of his face into seriousness, 
that sent him up the broad walk with swinging, 
decisive stride, his eyes glittering, his lips taking 
moisture from a quick-moving tongue. He needed 
a drink! 

Danny entered the Lenox home up there on 
the sightly knoll, fashioned from chill- white 
stone, staring composedly down on the drive 



DENUNCIATION 9 

from its many black-rimmed windows. The 
heavy front door shut behind him with a muf 
fled sound like a sigh, as though it had been 
waiting his coming all through the night, just 
as it had through so many nights, and let sup 
pressed breath slip out in relief at another return. 

A quick step carried him across the vestibule 
within sight of the dining-room doorway. He 
flung his soft hat in the general direction of a 
cathedral bench, loosed the carelessly arranged 
bow tie, and with an impatient jerk unbuttoned 
the soft shirt at nis full throat. Of all things, 
from conventions to collars, Danny detested those 
which bound. And just now his throat seemed to 
be swelling quickly, to be pulsing; and already 
the glands of his mouth responded to the thought 
of that which was on the buffet in a glass decanter 
amber and clear and 

At the end of the hallway a door stood open, 
and Danny s glance, passing into the room it 
disclosed, lighted on the figure of a man stooping 
over a great expanse of table, fumbling with 
papers fumbling a bit slowly, as with age, the 
boy remarked even in the flash of a second his 
mind required to register a recognition of his 
father. 

Danny stopped. The yearning of his throat, 
the call of his tightening nerves, lost potency for 
the moment; the glitter of desire in his dark eyes 
softened quickly. He threw back his handsome 
he ad with a gesture of affection that was almost 



io "_I CONQUERED" 

girlish, in spite of its muscular strength, and the 
smile came back, softer, more indulgent. 

His brow clouded a scant instant when he 
turned to look into the dining room as he walked 
down the long, dark, high-ceilinged hall, and his 
step hesitated. But he put the impulse off, 
going on, with shoulders thrown back, rubbing 
his palms together as though wholesomely happy. 

So he passed into the library. 

"Well, father, it s a good morning to you!" 

At the spontaneous salutation the older man 
merely ceased moving an instant. He remained 
bent over the table, one hand arrested in the 
act of reaching for a document. It was as 
though he held his breath to listen or to cal 
culate quickly. 

The son walked across to him, approaching 
from behind, and dropped a hand on the stooping, 
black-clothed shoulder. 

"How go " 

Danny broke his query abruptly, for the other 
straightened with a half -spoken word that was, 
at the least, utmost impatience; possibly a word 
which, fully uttered, would have expressed dis 
gust, perhaps even loathing! And on Danny 
was turned such a mask as he had never seen 
before. The cleanly shaven face was dark. The 
cold blue eyes flashed a chill fire and the grim 
slit of a tightly closed mouth twitched, as did 
the fingers at the skirts of the immaculate coat. 

Lenox senior backed away, putting out a hand 



DENUNCIATION u 

to the table, edging along until a corner of it 
was between himself and his heir. Then the 
hand, fingers stiffly extended, pressed against 
the table top. It trembled. 

The boy flushed, then smiled, then sobered. On 
the thought of what seemed to him the certain 
answer to the strangeness of this reception, his 
voice broke the stillness, filled with solicitude. 

"Did I startle you?" he asked, and a smile 
broke through his concern. "You jumped as 
though " 

Again he broke short. His father s right hand, 
palm outward, was raised toward him and moved 
quickly from side to side. That gesture meant 
silence! Danny had seen it used twice before 
- once when a man of political power had let 
his angered talk rise in the Lenox house until 
it became disquieting; once when a man came 
there to plead. And the gesture on those occa 
sions had carried the same quiet, ominous con 
viction that it now impressed on Danny. 

The voice of the old man was cold and hard, 
almost brittle for lack of feeling. 

"How much will you take to go?" he asked, 
and breathed twice loudly, as though struggling 
to hold back a bursting emotion. 

Danny leaned slightly forward from his hips 
and wrinkled his face in his inability to under 
stand. 

"What?" He drawled out the word. "Once 
more, please?" 



12 "__I CONQUERED" 

"How much will you take to go?" 

Again the crackling, colorless query, by its 
chill strength narrowing even the thought which 
must transpire in the presence of the speaker. 

How much will I take to go ? " repeated Danny. 
"How much what? To go where?" 

Lenox senior blinked, and his face darkened. 
His voice lost some of its edge, became a trifle 
muffled, as though the emotion he had breathed 
hard to suppress had come up into his throat and 
adhered gummily to the words. 

How much money how much money will 
you take to go away from here ? Away from me ? 
Away from New York ? Out of my sight out 
of my way?" 

Once more the fingers pressed the table top 
and the fighting jaw of the gray-haired man 
protruded slowly as the younger drew nearer 
a faltering step, two three, until he found 
support against the table. 

There across the corner of the heavy piece of 
furniture they peered at each other; one in silent, 
mighty rage; the other with eyes widening, 
quick, confusing lights playing across their depths 
as he strove to refuse the understanding. 

How much money to go away from New 
York from you? Out of your way?" 

Young Danny s voice rose in pitch at each 
word as with added realization the strain on his 
emotions increased. His body sagged forward 
and the hands on the table bore much of its 



DENUNCIATION 13 

weight; so much that the elbows threatened to 
give, as had his knees. 

"To go away why ? Why is this ? 

In his query was something of the terror of a 
frightened child; in his eyes something of the look 
of a wounded beast. 

"You ask me why!" 

Lenox senior straightened with a jerk and fol 
lowed the exclamation with something that had 
been a laugh until, driven through the rage within 
him, it became only a rattling rasp in his throat. 

"You ask me why!" he repeated. "You ask 
me why!" 

His voice dropped to a thin whisper; then, 
anger carrying it above its normal tone : 

"You stand here in this room, your face like 
suet from months and years of debauchery, your 
mind unable to catch my idea because of the 
poison you have forced on it, because of the 
stultifying thoughts you have let occupy it, 
because of the ruthless manner in which you have 
wasted its powers of preception, of judgment, 
and ask me why!" 

In quick gesture he leveled a vibrating finger 
at the face of his son and with pauses between the 
words declared : You are why ! 

Danny s elbows bent still more under the 
weight on them, and his lips worked as he tried 
to force a dry throat through the motions of 
swallowing. On his face was reflected just 
one emotion surprise. It was not rage, 



i 4 "_I CONQUERED" 

not resentment, not shame, not fear just 
surprise. 

He was utterly confused by the abruptness 
of his father s attack; he was unable to plumb 
the depths of its significance, although an inher 
ent knowledge of the other s moods told him 
that he faced disaster. 

Then the older man was saying: 

"You have stripped yourself of everything 
that God and man could give you. You have 
thrown the gems of your opportunity before your 
swinish desires. You have degenerated from the 
son your mother bore to a worthless, ambition- 
less, idealless, thoughtless drunkard!" 

Danny took a half -step closer to the table, 
his eyes held on those others with mechanical 
fixity. 

"Father but, dad- he tried to protest. 

Again the upraised, commanding palm. 

"I have stood it as long as I can. I have 
suggested from time to time that you give seri 
ous consideration to things about you and to 
your future; suggested, when a normal young 
man would have gone ahead of his own volition 
to meet the exigencies every individual must 
face sooner or later. 

"But you would have none of it! From your 
boyhood you have been a waster. I hoped once 
that all the trouble you gave us was evidence of 
a spirit that would later be directed toward a 
good end. But I was never justified in that. 



DENUNCIATION 15 

"You wasted your university career. Why, 
you were n t even a good athlete ! You man 
aged to graduate, but only to befog what little 
hope then remained to me. 

"You have had everything you could want; 
you had money, friends, and your family name. 
What have you done? Wasted them! You had 
your polo string and the ability to play a great 
game, but what came of it? You d rather sit 
in the clubhouse and saturate yourself with drink 
and with the idle, parasitic thoughts of the crowd 
there ! 

"You have dropped low and lower until, every 
thing else gone, you are now wasting the last 
thing that belongs to you, the fundamental thing 
in life your vitality ! 

"Oh, don t try to protest! Those sacks under 
your eyes ! Your shoulders are n t as straight 
as they were a year ago; you don t think as 
quickly as you did when making a pretense of 
playing polo; your hand isn t steady for a man 
of twenty-five. You re going; you re on the 
toboggan slide. 

"You have wasted yourself, flung yourself 
away, and not one act or thought of your experi 
ence has been worth the candle ! Now what 
will you take to get out?" 

The boy before him moved a slow step back 
ward, and a flush came up over his drawn face. 

"You he began. Then he stopped and 
drew a hand across his eyes, beginning the 



16 "__I CONQUERED" 

movement slowly and ending with a savage jerk. 
You never said a word before ! You never inti 
mated you thought this ! You never you - 

He floundered heavily under the stinging con 
viction that of such was his only defense! 

"No!" snapped his father, after waiting for 
more to come. "I never said anything before 
not like this. You smiled away whatever I 
suggested. Nothing mattered nothing except 
debauchery. Now you ve passed the limit 
You re a common drunk!" 

His voice rose high and higher; he commenced 
to gesticulate. 

"You live only to wreck yourself. Yours is 
the fault and the blame ! 

"It is natural for me to be concerned. I ve 
hung on now too long, hoping that you would 
right yourself and justify the hopes people have 
had in you. I planned, years ago, to have you 
take up my work where I must soon leave off - 
to go on in my place, to finish my life for me as 
I began yours for you! I ve had faith that you 
would do this, but you won t you can t! 

"That isn t all. You re holding me back. I 
must push on now harder than ever, but with 
the stench of your misdeeds always in my nos 
trils it is almost an impossibility." 

Danny raised his hands in a half-gesture of 
pleading, but the old man motioned him back. 

"Don t be sorry; don t try to explain. This 
had to come. It s an accumulation of years. 



DENUNCIATION 17 

I have no more faith in you. If I thought you 
could ever rally I d give up everything and 
help you, but not once in your life have you shown 
me that you possessed one impulse to be of use." 

His voice dropped with each word, and its 
return to the cold normal sent a stiffness into the 
boy s spine. His head went up, his chin out; 
his hands closed slowly. 

"How much money will you take to get out?" 

The old man moved from behind the table 
corner and approached Danny, walking slowly, 
with his hands behind him. He came to a stop 
before the boy, slowly unbuttoned his coat, reached 
to an inner pocket, and drew out a checkbook. 

"How much?" 

Danny s gesture, carried out, surely would 
have resulted in a blow strong enough to send 
the book spinning across the room ; but he stopped 
it halfway. 

His eyes were puffed and bloodshot; his pulse 
hammered loudly under his ears, and the rush 
of blood made his head roar. Before him floated 
a mist, fogging thought as it did his vision. 

The boy s voice was scarcely recognizable as 
he spoke. It was hard and cold somewhat 
like the one which had so scourged him. 

"Keep your money," he said, looking squarely 
at his father at the cost of a peculiar, unreal 
effort. "I ll get out and without your help. 
Some day I ll I 11 show you what a puny 
thing this faith of yours is!" 
2 



i8 "_I CONQUERED" 

The elder Lenox, buttoning his coat with brisk 
motions, merely said, "Very well." He left the 
room. 

Danny heard his footsteps cross the hall, 
heard the big front door sigh when it closed as 
though it rejoiced at the completion of a dis 
tasteful task. 

Then he shut his eyes and struck his thighs 
twice with stiff forearms. He was boiling, blood 
and brain! At first he thought it anger; perhaps 
anger had been there, but it was not the chief 
factor of that tumult. 

It was humiliation. The horrid, unanswerable 
truth had seared Danny s very body witness 
the anguished wrinkles on his brow and his 
molten consciousness could find no argument to 
justify himself, even to act as a balm! 

"He never said it before," the boy moaned, 
and in that spoken thought was the nearest thing 
to comfort that he could conjure. 

He stood in the library a long time, gradually 
cooling, gradually nursing the bitterness that 
grew up in the midst of conflicting impulses. The 
look in his eyes changed from bewilderment to a 
glassy cynicism, and he began to walk back and 
forth unsteadily. 

He paced the long length of the room a dozen 
times. Then, with a quickened stride, he passed 
into the hall, crossed it, and entered the dining 
room, the tip of his tongue caressing his lips. 

On the buffet stood a decanter, a heavy affair 



DENUNCIATION 19 

of finely executed glassworker s art. The dark 
stuff in it extended halfway up the neck, and as 
he reached for it Danny s lips parted. He lifted 
the receptacle and clutched at a whisky glass that 
stood on the same tray. He picked it up, looked 
calculatingly at it, set it down, and picked up 
a tumbler. 

The glass stopper of the bottle thudded on 
the mahogany; his nervous hand held the tumbler 
under its gurgling mouth. Half full, two-thirds, 
three-quarters, to within a finger s breadth of 
the top he filled it. 

Then, setting the decanter down, he lifted the 
glass to look through the amber at the morning 
light; his breath quick, his eyes glittering, Danny 
Lenox poised. A smile played about his eager 
lips a smile that brightened, and lingered, and 
faded and died. 

The hand holding the glass trembled, then was 
still; trembled again, so severely that it spilled 
some of the liquor; came gradually down from its 
upraised position, down below his mouth, below 
his shoulder, and waveringly sought the buffet. 

As the glass settled to the firm wood Danny s 
shoulders slacked forward and his head drooped. 
He turned slowly from the buffet, the aroma of 
whisky strong in his dilated nostrils. After the 
first faltering step he faced about, gazed at his 
reflection in the mirror, and said aloud: 

"And it s not been worth the candle!" 

Savagery was in his step as he entered the 



20 "_I CONQUERED" 

hall, snatched up his hat, and strode to the door. 
As the heavy portal swung shut behind the 
hurrying boy it sighed again, as though hope 
lessly. The future seemed hopeless for Danny. 
He had gone out to face a powerful foe. 



CHAPTER II 

A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST 

FROM the upper four hundreds on Riverside 
Drive to Broadway where the lower thirties 
slash through is a long walk. Danny Lenox 
walked it this June day. As he left the house 
his stride was long and nervously eager, but 
before he covered many blocks his gait moderated 
and the going took hours. 

Physical fatigue did not slow down his progress. 
The demands upon his mental machinery retarded 
his going. He needed time to think, to plan, to 
bring order out of the chaos into which he had 
been plunged. Danny had suddenly found that 
many things in life are to be considered seriously. 
An hour ago they could have been numbered on 
his fingers; now they were legion. It was a newly 
recognized fact, but one so suddenly obvious that 
the tardiness of his realization became of porten 
tous significance. 

Through all the hurt and shame and rage the 
great truth that his father had hammered home 
became crystal clear. He had been merely a 
waster, and a sharp bitterness was in him as he 
strode along, hands deep in pockets. 

The first flash of his resentment had given 
birth to the childish desire to "show em," and 

21 



22 "_I CONQUERED" 

as he crowded his brain against the host of 
strange facts he found this impulse becoming 
stronger, growing into a healthy determination 
to adjust his standard of values so that he 
could, even with this beginning, justify his 
existence. 

Oh, the will to do was strong in his heart, 
but about it was a clammy, oppressive something. 
He wondered at it then traced it back directly 
to the place in his throat that cried out for 
quenching. As he approached a familiar haunt 
that urge became more insistent and the palms 
of his hands commenced to sweat. He crossed 
the street and made on down the other side. He 
had wasted his ability to do, had let this desire 
sap his will. He needed every jot of strength 
now. He would begin at the bottom and call 
back that frittered vitality. He shut his teeth 
together and doggedly stuck his head forward just 
a trifle. 

The boy had no plan; there had not been time 
to become so specific. His whole philosophy had 
been stood on its head with bewildering sudden 
ness. He knew, though, that the first thing 
to do was to cut his environment, to get away, 
off anywhere, to a place where he could build 
anew. The idea of getting away associated it 
self with one thing in his mind: means of trans 
portation. So, when his eyes without conscious 
motive stared at the poster advertising a rail 
road system that crosses the continent, Danny 



A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST 23 

Lenox stopped and let the crowd surge past him. 

A man behind the counter approached the 
tall, broad-shouldered chap who fumbled in his 
pockets and dumped out their contents. He 
looked with a whimsical smile at the stuff pro 
duced: handkerchiefs, pocket-knife, gold pencil, 
tobacco pouch, watch, cigarette case, a couple of 
hat checks, opened letters, and all through it 
money money in bills and in coins. 

The operation completed, Danny commenced 
picking out the money. He tossed the crumpled 
bills together in a pile and stacked the coins. 
That done, he swept up the rest of his property, 
crammed it into his coat pockets, and commenced 
smoothing the bills. 

The other man, meanwhile, stood and smiled. 

"Cleaning up a bit?" he asked. 

Danny raised his eyes. 

"That s the idea," he said soberly. "To 
clean up a bit." 

The seriousness of his own voice actually 
startled him. 

"How far will that take me over your line?" 
he asked, indicating the money. 

The man stared hard; then smiled. 

"You mean you want that much worth of 
ticket?" 

"Yes, ticket and berth upper berth. Less 
this." He took out a ten-dollar bill. "I ll eat 
on the way," he explained gravely. 



24 "I CONQUERED" 

The other counted the bills, turning them over 
with the eraser end of his pencil, then counted 
the silver and made a note of the total. 

"Which way by St. Louis or Chicago?" 
he asked. "We can send you through either 
place." 

Danny lifted a dollar from the stack on the 
counter and nipped it in the air. Catching it, 
he looked at the side which came up and said: 

"St. Louis." 

Again the clerk calculated, referring to time 
tables and a map. 

"Denver," he muttered, as though to himself. 
Then to Danny : Out of Denver I can give you 
the Union Pacific, Denver and Rio Grande, or 
Santa Fe." 

"The middle course." 

"All right D. and R.G." 

Then more referring to maps and time-tables, 
more figuring, more glances at the pile of money. 

Let s see that will land you at at 
as he ran his finger down the tabulation "at 
Colt, Colorado." 

Danny moved along the counter to the glass- 
covered map, a new interest in his face. 

"Where s that Colt, Colorado?" he asked, 
leaning his elbows on the counter. 

"See?" The other indicated with his pencil. 

"You go south from Denver to Colorado 
Springs; then on through Pueblo, through the 
Royal Gorge here, and right in here " he put 



A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST 25 

the lead point down on the red line of the rail 
road and Danny s head came close to his "is 
where you get off." 

The boy gazed lingeringly at the white dot 
in the red line and then looked up to meet the 
other s smile. 

"Mountains and more mountains," he said 
with no hint of lightness. "That s a long way 
from this place." 

He gazed out on to flowing Broadway with a 
look somewhat akin to pleading, and heard the 
man mutter: "Yes, beyond easy walking from 
downtown, at least." 

Danny straightened and sighed. That much 
was settled. He was going to Colt, Colorado. 
He looked back at the map again, possessed with 
an uneasy foreboding. 

Colt, Colorado! 

"Well, when can I leave?" he asked, as he 
commenced putting his property back into the 
proper pockets. 

"You can scarcely catch the next train," 
said the clerk, glancing at the clock, "because 
it leaves the Grand Central in nineteen min 

"Yes, I can!" broke in Danny. "Get me a 
ticket and I ll get there!" Then, as though to 
himself, but still in the normal speaking tone: 
"I m through putting things off." 

Eighteen and three-quarters minutes later a 
tall, young man trotted through the Grand 
Central train shed to where his Pullman waited. 



26 "_I CONQUERED" 

The porter looked at the length of the ticket 
Danny handed the conductor. 

"Ain t y ll carryin nothin , boss?" he asked. 

"Yes, George," Danny muttered as he passed 
into the vestibule, "but nothing you can help 
me with." 

With the grinding of the car wheels under 
him Danny s mind commenced going round and 
round his knotty problem. His plan had called 
for nothing more than a start. And now- 
Colt, Colorado! 

Behind him he was leaving everything of which 
he was certain, sordid though it might be. He 
was going into the unknown, ignorant of his own 
capabilities, realizing only that he was weak. 
He thought of those burned bridges, of the uncer 
tainty that lay ahead, of the tumbling of the 
old temple about his ears 

And doubt came up from the ache in his throat, 
from the call of his nerves. He had not had a 
drink since early last evening. He needed 
No! That was the last thing he needed. 

He sat erect in his seat with the determination 
and strove to fight down the demands which his 
wasting had made so steely strong. He felt 
for his cigarette case. It was empty, but the 
tobacco pouch held a supply, and as he walked 
toward the smoking compartment he dusted 
some of the weed into a rice paper. 

Danny pushed aside the curtain to enter, and 
a fat man bumped him with a violent jolt. 



A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST 27 

"Oh, excuse me!" he begged, backing off. 
"Sorry. I ll be back in a jiffy with more sub 
stantial apologies." 

Three others in the compartment made room 
for Danny, who lighted his cigarette and drew 
a great gasp of smoke into his lungs. 

In a moment the fat man was back, his eyes 
dancing. In his hand was a silver whisky flask. 

"Now if you don t say this is the finest booze 
ever turned out of a gin mill, I ll go plumb!" he 
declared. "Drink, friend, drink!" 

He handed the flask to one of the others. 

"Here s to you!" the man saluted, raising the 
flask high and then putting its neck to his mouth. 

Danny s tongue went again to his lips; his 
breath quickened and the light in his eyes became 
a greedy glitter. He could hear the gurgle of 
the liquid ; his own throat responded in movement 
as he watched the swallowing. He squeezed his 
cigarette until the thin paper burst and the 
tobacco sifted out. 

"Great!" declared the man with a sigh as he 
lowered the flask. Great ! 

He smacked his lips and winked. "Ah! No 
whisky s bad, but this s better n most of it!" 

Then, extending the flask toward Danny, he 
said: "Try it, brother; it s good for a soul." 

But Danny, rising to his feet with a suddenness 
that was almost a spring, strode past him to the 
door. His face suddenly had become tight and 
white and harried. He paused at the entry, 



28 "__I CONQUERED" 

holding the curtain aside, and turned to see the 
other, flask still extended, staring at him in bewil 
derment. 

"I m not drinking, you know," said Danny 
weakly, "not drinking." 

Then he went out, and the fat man who had 
produced the liquor said soberly: 

"Not drinking, and havin a time staying off 
it. But say ain t that some booze?" 

Long disuse of the power to plan concretely, 
to think seriously of serious facts, had left it 
weak. Danny strove to route himself through 
to that new life he knew was so necessary, but 
he could not call back the ability of tense thinking 
with a word or a wish. And while he tried for 
that end the boy commenced to realize that 
perhaps he had not so far to seek for his fresh 
start. Perhaps it was not waiting for him in 
Colt, Colorado. Perhaps it was right here in 
his throat, in his nerves. Perhaps the creature 
in him was not a thing to be cleared away before 
he could begin to fight perhaps it was the 
proper object at which to direct his whole attack. 

Enforced idleness was an added handicap. 
Physical activity would have made the beginning 
much easier, for before he realized it Danny was 
in the thick of battle. A system that had been 
stimulated by poison in increasing proportion 
to its years almost from boyhood began to make 
unequivocal demands for the stuff that had held 



A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST 29 

it to high pitch. Tantalizingly at first, with the 
thirsting throat and jumping muscles; then. with 
thundering assertions that warped the vision 
and numbed the intellect and toyed with the 
will. He gave up trying to think ahead. His 
entire mental force went into the grapple with 
that desire. Where he had thought to find pos 
sible distress in the land out yonder, it had come 
to meet him and of a sort more fearful, more 
tremendous, than any which he had been able 
to conceive. 

Through the rise of that fevered fighting the 
words of his father rang constantly in Danny s 
mind. 

"He was right right, right!" the boy de 
clared over and over. "It was brutal; but he 
was right! I ve wasted, I ve gone the limit. 
And he doesn t think I can come back!" 

While faith would have been as a helping hand 
stretched down to pull him upward, the denial 
of it served as a stinging goad, driving him on. 
A chord deep within him had been touched by 
the raining blows from his father, and the vibra 
tions of that chord became quicker and sharper 
as the battle crescendoed. The unbelief had 
stirred a retaliating determination. 

It was this that sent a growl of defiance into 
Danny s throat at sight of a whisky sign; it was 
the cause of his cursing when, walking up and 
down a station platform at a stop, he saw men 
in the buffet car lift glasses to their lips and smile 



30 "__I CONQUERED" 

at one other. It was this that drew him away 
from an unfinished meal in the diner when a 
man across the table ordered liquor and Danny s 
eyes ached for the sight of it, his nostrils begged 
for the smell. 

So on every hand came the suggestions that 
made demands upon his resistance, that made 
the weakness gnaw the harder at his will. But 
he fought against it, on and on across a country, 
out into the mountains, toward the end of his 
ride. 

The unfolding of the marvels of a continent s 
vitals had a peculiar effect on Danny. 

Before that trip he had held the vaguest notions 
of the West, but with the realization of the 
grandeur of it all he was torn between a glorified 
inspiration and a suffocating sense of his own 
smallness. 

He had known only cities, and cities are, by 
comparison, such puny things. They froth and 
ferment and clatter and clang and boast, and yet 
they are merely flecks, despoiled spots, on an 
expanse so vast that it seems utterly unconscious 
of their presence. The boy realized this as the 
big cities were left behind, as the stretches be 
tween stations became longer, the towns more 
flimsy, newer. A species of terror filled him as 
he gazed moodily from his Pullman window out 
across that panorama to the north. Why, he 
could see as far as to the Canadian boundary, it 



A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST 31 

seemed! On and on, rising gently, ever flowing, 
never ending, went the prairie. Here and there 
a fence ; now a string of telephone poles marching 
out sturdily, bravely, to reduce distance by count 
less hours. There a house, alone, unshaded, 
with a woman standing in the door watching 
his speeding train. Yonder a man shacking along 
on a rough little horse, head down, listless a 
crawling jot under that endless sky. 

Even his train, thing of steel and steam, was 
such a paltry particle, screaming to a heaven 
that heard not, driving at a distance that cared not. 

Then the mountains! 

Danny awoke in Denver, to step from his car 
and look at noble Evans raising its craggy, 
hoary head into the salmon pink of morning, 
defiant, ignoring men who fussed and puttered 
down there in its eternal shadow; at Long s Peak, 
piercing the sky as though striving to be away 
from humans; at Pike, shimmering proudly 
through its sixty miles of crystal distance, taking 
a heavy, giant delight in watching beings worry 
their way through its hundred-mile dooryard. 

Then along the foothills the train tore with 
the might of which men are so proud; yet it only 
crawled past those mountains. 

Stock country now, more and more cattle in 
sight. Blase, white-faced Herefords lifted their 
heads momentarily toward the cars. They heeded 
little more than did the mountains. 

Then, to the right and into the ranges, twisting, 



32 "_I CONQUERED" 

turning, climbing, sliding througn the narrow 
defiles at the grace of the towering heights which 
so alive did they seem could have whiffed 
out that thing, those lives, by a mere stirring 
on their complacent bases. 

And Danny commenced L o draw parallels. 
Just as his life had been axdficial, so had his 
environment. Manhattan and this ! Its com 
plaining cars, its popping pavements, its echoing 
buildings it had all seemed so big, so great, so 
mighty! And yet it was merely a little mud 
village, the work of a prattling child, as compared 
with this country. The subway, backed by its 
millions in bonds, planned by constructive genius, 
executed by master minds, a thing to write into 
the history of all time, was a mole-passage com 
pared to this gorge! The Woolworth, labor of 
years, girders mined on Superior, stones quarried 
elsewhere, concrete, tiling, cables, woods, all 
manner of fixtures contributed by continents; 
donkey engines puffing, petulant whistles scream 
ing, men of a dozen tongues crawling and worming 
and dying for it; a nation standing agape at its 
ivory and gold attainments! And what was it? 
Put it down here and it would be lost in the rolling 
of the prairie as it swelled upward to meet honest 
heights ! 

No wonder Danny Lenox felt inconsequential. 
And yet he sensed a friendly something in that 
grandeur, an element which reached down for 
him like a helping hand and offered to draw him 



A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST 33 

out of his cramped, mean little life and put him 
up with stalwart men. 

"If this rotten carcass of mine, with its dry 
throat and fluttering hands, will only stick by me 
I ll show em yet!" he declared, and held up one 
of those hands to watch its uncertainty. 

And in the midst of one of those bitter, griping 
struggles to keep his vagrant mind from running 
into vinous paths, the brakes clamped down and 
the porter, superlatively polite, announced: 

"This is Colt, sah." 

A quick interest fired Danny. He hurried to 
the platform, stood on the lowest step, and 
watched the little clump of buildings swell to 
natural size. He reached into his pocket, grasped 
the few coins remaining there, and gave them to 
the colored boy. 

The train stopped with a jolt, and Danny 
stepped off. The conductor, who had dropped 
off from the first coach as it passed the station, 
ran out of the depot, waved his hand, and the 
grind of wheels commenced again. 

As the last car passed, Danny Lenox stared at 
it, and for many minutes his gaze followed its 
departure. After it had disappeared around the 
distant curve he retained a picture of the white- 
clad servant, leaning forward and pouring some 
liquid from a bottle. 

The roar of the cars died to a murmur, a mut 
tering, and was swallowed in the canon. The 
sun beat down on the squat, green depot and 

3 



34 

cinder platform, sending the quivering heat rays 
back to distort the outlines of objects. Every 
where was a white, blinding light. 

From behind came a sound of waters, and 
Danny turned about to gaze far down into a ragged 
gorge where a river tumbled and protested through 
the rocky way. 

Beyond the stream was stretching mesa, quiet 
and flat and smooth looking in the crystal dis 
tance, dotted with pine, shimmering under the 
heat. 

For five minutes he stared almost stupidly at 
that grand sweep of still country, failing to 
comprehend the fact of arrival. Then he walked 
to the end of the little station and gazed up at 
the town. 

A dozen buildings with false fronts, some 
painted, some without pretense of such nicety, 
faced one another across a thoroughfare four 
times as wide as Broadway. Sleeping saddle 
ponies stood, each with a hip slumped and nose 
low to the yellow ground. A scattering of houses 
with their clumps of outbuildings and fenced 
areas straggled off behind the stores. 

Scraggly, struggling pine stood here and there 
among the rocks, but shade was scant. 

Behind the station were acres of stock pens, 
with high and unpainted fences. Desolation! 
Desolation supreme! 

Danny felt a sickening, a revulsion. But lo! 
his eyes, lifting blindly for hope, for comfort, 



A YOUNG MAN GOES WEST 35 

found the thing which raised him above the 
depression of the rude little town. 

A string of cliffs, ranging in color from the 
bright pink of the nearest to the soft violet of 
those which might be ten or a hundred miles 
away, stretched in mighty columns, their varied 
pigments telling of the magnificent distances 
to which they reached. All were plastered up 
against a sky so blue that it seemed thick, and 
as though the color must soon begin to drip. 
Glory! The majesty of the earth s ragged crust, 
the exquisite harmony of that glorified gaudiness ! 
Danny pulled a great chestful of the rare air 
into his lungs. He threw up his arms in a little 
gesture that indicated an acceptance of things 
as they were, and in his mind flickered the ques 
tion: 

"The beginning or the end?" 



CHAPTER III 

"I VE DONE MY PICKIN" 

THEN he felt his gaze drawn away from 
those vague, alluring distances. It was one 
of those pulls which psychologists have failed 
to explain with any great clarity; but every hu 
man being recognizes them. Danny followed 
the impulse. 

He had not seen the figure squatting there on 
his spurs at the shady end of the little depot, for 
he had been looking off to the north. But as 
he yielded to the urge he knew its source in 
those other eyes. 

The figure was that of a little man, and his 
doubled-up position seemed to make his frame 
even more diminutive. The huge white angora 
chaps, the scarlet kerchief about his neck and 
against the blue of his shirt, the immense spread 
of his hat, his drooping gray mustache, all em 
phasized his littleness. 

Yet Danny saw none of those things. He 
looked straight into the blue eyes squinting up 
at him eyes deep and comprehensive, set in 
a copper-colored face, surrounded by an intricate 
design of wrinkles in the clear skin; eyes that had 
looked at incalculably distant horizons for decades, 
and had learned to look at men with that same 

36 



"I VE DONE MY PICKIN" 37 

long-range gaze. A light was in those eyes 
a warm, kindly, human light that attracted 
and held and created an atmosphere of stability; 
it seemed as though that light were tangible, 
something to which a man could tie so 
prompt is the flash from man to man that 
makes for friendship and devotion; and to 
Danny there came a sudden comfort. That 
was why he did not notice the other things 
about the little man. That was why he wanted 
to talk. 

"Good morning," he said. 

" Mornin ." 

Then a pause, while their eyes still held one 
another. 

After a moment Danny looked away. He 
had a stabbing idea that the little man was read 
ing him with that penetrating gaze. The look 
was kindly, sincere, yet and perhaps because 
of it the boy cringed. 

The man stirred and spat. 

"To be sure, things kind of quiet down when 
th train quits this place," he remarked with a 
nasal twang. 

"Yes, indeed. I I don t suppose much 
happens here except trains." 

Danny smiled feebly. He took his hat off 
and wiped the brow on which beads of sweat 
glistened against the pallor. The little man 
still looked up, and as he watched Danny s weak, 
uncertain movements the light in his eyes changed. 



38 "_I CONQUERED" 

The smile left them, but the kindliness did not 
go; a concern came, and a tenderness. 

Still, when he spoke his nasal voice was as it 
had been before. 

"Take it you just got in?" 

"Yes just now. 

Then another silence, while Danny hung his head 
as he felt those searching eyes boring through him. 

"Long trip this hot weather, ain t it?" 

"Yes, very long." 

Danny looked quickly at his interrogator then 
and asked: 

"How did you know?" 

"Didn t. Just guessed." He chuckled. 
"Ever think how many men s been thought 
wise just guessin ?" 

But Danny caught the evasion. He looked 
down at his clothes, wrinkled, but still crying 
aloud of his East. 

"I suppose," he muttered, "I do look different 
am different." 

And the association of ideas took him across 
the stretches to Manhattan, to the life that was, 
to- 

He caught his breath sharply. The call of his 
throat was maddening! 

The little man had risen and, with thumbs 
hooked in his chap belt, stumped on his high 
boot heels close to Danny. A curious expression 
softened the lines of his face, making it seem 
queerly out of harmony with his garb. 



"I VE DONE MY PICKIN" 3 9 

"You lookin for somebody?" he ventured, 
and the nasal quality of his voice seemed to be 
mellowed, seemed to invite, to compel confidence. 

"Looking for somebody?" 

Danny, only half consciously, repeated the 
query. Then, throwing his head back and follow 
ing that range of flat tops off to the north, he 
muttered : Yes, looking for somebody look 
ing for myself!" 

The other shifted his chew, reached for his hat 
brim, and pulled it lower. 

"No baggage?" he asked. "To be sure, an 
ain t you got no grip?" 

Danny looked at him quickly again, and, 
meeting the honest query in that face, seeing 
the spark there which meant sympathy and 
understanding qualities which human beings 
can recognize anywhere and to which they respond 
unhesitatingly he smiled wanly. 

"Grip?" he asked, and paused. "Grip? Not 
the sign of one ! That s what I m here for in 
Colt, Colorado to get a fresh grip!" After a 
moment he extended an indicating finger and 
asked: "Is that all of Colt Colt, Colorado?" 

The old man did not follow the pointing farther 
than the uncertain finger. And when he answered 
his eyes had changed again, changed to searching, 
ferreting points that ran over every puff and seam 
and hollow in young Danny s face. Then the 
older man set his chin firmly, as though a grim 
conclusion had been reached. 



40 "__I CONQUERED" 

"That s th total o Colt," he answered. 
"It ain t exactly astoundin , is it?" 

Danny shook his head slowly. 

"Not exactly," he agreed. "Let s go up and 
look it over." 

An amused curiosity drove out some of the 
misery that had been in his pallid countenance. 

"Sure, come along an inspect our metropolis!" 
invited the little man, and they struck off through 
the sagebrush. 

Danny s long, free stride made the other hustle, 
and the contrast between them was great; the 
one tall and broad and athletic of poise in spite 
of the shoulders, which were not back to their 
full degree of squareness; the other, short and 
bowlegged and muscle-bound by years in the 
saddle, taking two steps to his pacemaker s one. 

They attracted attention as they neared the 
store buildings. A man in riding garb came to 
the door of a primitive clothing establishment, 
looked, stepped back, and emerged once more. 
A moment later two others joined him, and they 
stared frankly at Danny and his companion. 

A man on horseback swung out into the broad 
street, and as he rode away from them turned in 
his saddle to look at the pair. A woman ran 
down the post-office steps and halted her hurried 
progress for a lingering glance at Danny. The 
boy noticed it all. 

"I m attracting attention," he said to the 
little man, and smiled as though embarrassed. 



"I VE DONE MY PICKIN" 41 

"Aw, these squashies ain t got no manners," 
the other apologized. "They set out in these 
dog-gone hills an look down badger holes so much 
that they git loco when somethin new comes 
along." 

Then he stopped, for the tall stranger was not 
beside him. He looked around. His companion 
was standing still, lips parted, fingers working 
slowly. He was gazing at the front of the Mon 
arch saloon. 

From within came the sound of an upraised 
voice. Then another in laughter. The swinging 
doors opened, and a man lounged out. After 
him, ever so faint, but insidiously strong and 
compelling, came an odor! 

For a moment, a decade, a generation time 
does not matter when a man chokes back tempta 
tion to save himself Danny stood in the yellow 
street, under the white sunlight, making his feet 
remain where they were. They would have 
hurried him on, compelling him to follow those 
fumes to their source, to push aside the flapping 
doors and take his throat to the place where that 
burning spot could be cooled. 

In Colt, Colorado! It had been before him 
all the way, and now he could not be quit of its 
physical presence! But though his will wavered, 
it held his feet where they were, because it was 
stiffened by the dawning knowledge that his 
battle had only commenced ; that the struggle 
during the long journey across country had been 



42 "__I CONQUERED" 

only preliminary maneuvering, only the mobilizing 
of his forces. 

When he moved to face the little Westerner 
his eyes were filmed. The other drew a hand 
across his mouth calculatingly and jerked his 
hat-brim still lower. 

"As I was sayin ," he went on a bit awkwardly 
as they resumed their walk, "these folks ain t 
got much manners, but they re good hearted." 

Danny did not hear. He was casting around 
for more resources, more reserves to reinforce 
his front in the battle that was raging. 

He looked about quickly, a bit wildly, searching 
for some object, some idea to engage his thoughts, 
to divert his mind from that insistent calling. 
His eyes spelled out the heralding of food stuffs. 
The sun stood high. It was time. It was not 
an excuse; it was a Godsend! 

Let s eat, he said abruptly. I m starving. 

"That s a sound idee," agreed the other, and 
they turned toward the restaurant, a flat-roofed 
building of rough lumber. A baby was playing 
in the dirt before the door and a chained coyote 
puppy watched them from the shelter of a corner. 

On the threshold Danny stopped, confusion 
possessing him He stammered a moment, tried 
to smile, and then muttered: 

"Guess I d better wait a little. It is n t neces 
sary to eat right away, anyhow." 

He stepped back from the doorway with its 
smells of cooking food and the other followed him 



"I VE DONE MY PICKIN" 43 

quickly, blue eyes under brows that now drew 
down in determination. 

"Look here, boy," the man said, stepping close, 
"you was crazy for chuck a minute ago, an now 
you make a bad excuse not to eat. To be sure, 
it ain t none of my business, but I m old enough 
to be your daddy; I ain t afraid to ask you what s 
wrong. Why don t you want to eat?" 

The sincerity of it, the unalloyed interest that 
precluded any hint of prying or sordid curiosity, 
went home to Danny and he said simply : 

"I m broke." 

"You didn t need to tell me. I knowed it. 
I ain t, though. You eat with me." 

"I can t! I can t do that!" 

"Expect to starve, I s pose?" 

"No not exactly. That is," he hastened 
to say, "not if I m worth my keep. I came out 
here to to get busy and take care of myself. 
I 11 strike a job of some sort anything, I don t 
care what it is or where it takes me. When 
I m ready to work, I 11 eat. I ought to get work 
right away, oughtn t I?" 

In his voice was a sudden pleading born of the 
fear awakened by his realization of absolute 
helplessness, as though he looked for assurance 
to strengthen his feeble hopes, but hardly dared 
expect it. The little man looked him over 
gravely from the heels of his flat shoes to the 
crown of his rakishly soft hat. He pushed his 
Stetson far back on his gray hair. 



44 " I CONQUERED" 

"To be sure, and I guess you won t have to 
look far for work," he said. "I ve been combin 
this town dry for a hand all day. If you d like 
to take a chance workin for me I d be mighty 
glad to take you on right off. I m only waitin 
to find a man can t go home till I do. Con 
sider yourself hired!" 

He turned on his heel and started off. But 
Danny did not follow. He felt distrust; he 
thought the kindness of the other was going too 
far; he suspected charity. 

"Come on!" the man snapped, turning to look 
at the loitering Danny. "Have I got to rope 
an drag you to grub?" 

"But you see it s this way," the boy 
stammered. "Do you really want me? Can I 
do your work? How do you know I m worth 
even a meal?" 

A slow grin spread over the Westerner s 
countenance. 

"Friend,* he drawled in his high, nasal tone, 
"it s a pretty poor polecat of a man who ain t 
worth a meal; an it s a pretty poor specimen 
who goes hirin without makin up his mind 
sufficient. They ain t many jobs in this country, 
but just now they s fewer men. We ve got used 
to bein careful pickers. I ve done my pickin . 
Come on." 

Only half willingly the boy followed. 

They walked through the restaurant, the old 
man saluting the lone individual who presided 



"I VE DONE MY PICKIN" 45 

over the place, which was kitchen and dining 
room in one. 

"Hello, Jed," the proprietor cried, waving a 
fork. "How s things?" 

"Finer n frog s hair!" the other replied, 
shoving open the broken screen door at the rear. 

"This is where we abolute," he remarked, 
indicating the dirty wash-basin, the soap which 
needed a boiling out itself, and the discouraged, 
service-stiffened towel. 

Danny looked dubiously at the array. He 
had never seen as bad, to say nothing of having 
used such; but the man with him sloshed water 
into the basin from a tin pail and said: 

"You re next, son, you re next." 

And Danny plunged his bared wrists into the 
water. It was good, it was cool; and he forgot 
the dirty receptacle in the satisfaction that came 
with drenching his aching head and dashing the 
cooling water over his throat. The other stood 
and watched, his eyes busy, his face reflecting 
the rapid workings of his mind. 

They settled in hard-bottomed, uncertain- 
legged chairs, and Jed whoever he might be, 
Danny thought, as he remembered the name 
gave their order to the man, who was, among 
other things, waiter and cook. 

"Make it two sirloins," he said; "one well 
done an one " He lifted his eyebrows at 
Danny. 

"Rare," the boy said. 



4 6 _! CONQUERED" 

"An some light bread an a pie," concluded 
the employer- host. 

Danny saw that the cook wore a scarf around 
his neck and down his back, knotted in three 
places. When he moved on the floor it was 
evident that he wore riding boots. On his 
wrists were the leather cuffs of the cowboy. 

Danny smiled. A far cry, indeed, this res 
taurant in Colt, Colorado, from his old haunts 
along the dark thoroughfare that is misnamed a 
lighted way! The other was talking: "We ll 
leave soon s we re through an make it on up 
th road to-night. It ll take us four days to 
get to th ranch, probably, an we might s well 
commence. Can you ride?" 

Danny checked a short affirmative answer on 
his lips. 

"I ve ridden considerably," he said. "You 
people wouldn t call it riding, though. You ll 
have to teach me." 

"Well, that s a good beginnin . To be sure 
it is. Them as has opinions is mighty hard to 
teach cause opinions is like as not to be dead 
wrong." 

He smeared butter on a piece of bread and 
poked it into his mouth. Then: 

I brought out my last hand I come with 
him, I mean. Th sheriff brought him. His 
saddle an bed s over to th stable. You can use 
em." 

"Sheriff?" asked Danny. "Get into trouble?" 



"I VE DONE MY PICKIN" 47 

"Oh, a little. He s a good boy, mostly 
except when he gets drinkin ." 

Danny shoved his thumb down against the 
tines of the steel fork he held until they bent 
to uselessness. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE TROUBLE HUNTER 

KNEE to knee, at a shacking trot, they rode 
out into the glory of big places, two horses 
before them bearing the light burden of a West 
erner s bed. 

"My name s Jed Avery," the little man broke 
in when they w r ere clear of the town. " I m located 
over on Red Mountain a hundred an thirty 
miles from here. I run horses th VB stuff. 
They call me Jed or Old VB ; mostly Jed now, 
cause th fellers who used to ca 1 ] me Old VB has 
got past talkin so you can hear em, or else has 
moved out. Names don t matter, anyhow. It 
ain t a big outfit, but I have a good time runnin 
it. Top hands get thirty-five a month." 

Danny felt that there was occasion for answer 
of some sort. In those few words Avery had 
given him as much information as he could need, 
and had given it freely, not as though he expected 
to open a way for the satisfaction of any curiosity. 
He wanted to forget the past, to leave it entirely 
behind him; did not want so much as a remnant 
to cling to him in this new life. Still, he did not 
deem it quite courteous to let the volunteered 
information come to him and respond with 
merely an acknowledgment. 

4 8 



THE TROUBLE HUNTER 49 

He cleared his throat. "I m from Riverside 
Drive, New York City," he said grimly. "Names 
don t matter. I don t know how to do a thing 
except waste time and strength. If you ll 
give me a chance, I ll get to be a top hand." 

An interval of silence followed. 

"I never heard of th street you mention. I 
know New York s on th other slope an consid 
erable different from this here country. Gettin 
to be a top hand s mostly in makin up your 
mind just like gettin anywhere else." 

Then more wordless travel. Behind them Colt 
dwindled to a bright blotch. The road ran close 
against the hills, which rose abruptly and in 
scarred beauty. The way was ever upward, 
and as they progressed more of the country 
beyond the river spread out to their view, mesas 
and mountains stretching away to infinite dis 
tance, it seemed. 

Even back of the sounds of their travel the 
magnificent silence impressed itself. It was weird 
to Danny Lenox, unlike anything his traffic- 
hardened ears had ever experienced, and it made 
him uneasy it, and the ache in his throat. 

That ache seemed to be the last real thing left 
about him, anyhow. Events had come with 
such unreasonable rapidity in those last few days 
that his harassed mind could not properly arrange 
the impressions. Here he w^as, hired out to do 
he knew not what, starting a journey that would 
take him a hundred and thirty miles from a 



5 o "_I CONQUERED" 

place called Colt, in the state of Colorado, through 
a country as unknown to him as the regions of 
mythology, beside a man whose like he had never 
seen before, traveling in a fashion that on his 
native Manhattan had worn itself to disuse two 
generations ago! 

Out of the whimsical reverie he came with a 
jolt. Following the twisting road, coming toward 
them at good speed, was the last thing he would 
have associated with this place an automobile. 
He reined his horse out of the path, saw the full- 
figured driver throw up his arm in salutation to 
Jed, and heard Jed shout an answering greeting. 
The driver looked keenly at Danny as he passed, 
and touched his broad hat. 

"Who was that?" the boy asked, as he again 
fell in beside his companion. 

"That s Bob Thorpe," the other explained. 
"He s th biggest owner in this part of Colorado 
mebby in th whole state. Cattle. S Bar S 
mostly, but he owns a lot of brands." 

"Can he get around through these mountains 
in a car?" 

"He seems to. An his daughter! My! To 
be sure, she d drive that dog-gone bus right up 
th side of that cliff! You ll see for yourself. 
She ll be home fore long college East some- 
wheres." 

The boy looked at him questioningly but said 
nothing. College East home fore long - 
Might it not form a link between this new and 



THE TROUBLE HUNTER 51 

that old a peculiar sort of link as peculiar 
as this sudden, unwarranted interest in this 
girl? 

Through the long afternoon Danny eagerly 
awaited the coming of more events, more distrac 
tions. When they came such as informative 
bursts from Jed or the passing of the automobile 
he forgot for the brief passage of time the 
throb in his throat, that wailing of the creature 
in him. But when the two rode on at the sham 
bling trot, with the silence and the immense 
grandeur all about them, the demands of his 
appetite were made anew, intensified perhaps 
by a feeling of his own inconsequence, by the 
knowledge that should he fail once in standing 
off those assaults it would mean only another 
beginning, and harder by far than this one he 
was experiencing. 

Every hour of sober reflection, of sordid strug 
gle, added to his estimate of the strength of that 
self he must subdue. He was going away into 
the waste places, and a sneaking fear of being 
removed from the stuff that had kept him keyed 
commenced to grow, adding to the fleshly wants. 

If he should be whipped and a surrender be 
forced? What then? He realized that that 
doubting was cowardice. He had come out here 
to have freedom, a new beginning, and now he 
found himself begging for a way back should the 
opposition be too great. It was sheer weakness! 

Cautiously Jed Avery had watched Danny s 



52 "_I CONQUERED" 

face, and when he saw anxiety show there as 
doubt rose, he broke into words: 

"Yes, sir, Charley was sure a good boy, but 
th booze got him." 

He looked down at his horse s withers so he 
could not see the start this assertion gave Danny. 

"He didn t want to be bad, but it s so easy 
to let go. To be sure, it is. Anyhow, Charley 
never had a chance, never a look-in. He was 
good hearted an meant well but he did n t 
have th backbone." 

And Danny found that a rage commenced to 
rise within him, a rage which drove back those 
queries that had made him weak. 

Day waned. The sun slid down oehind the 
string of cliffs which stretched on before them 
at their left. Distances took on their purple 
veils, a canopy of virgin silver spread above the 
earth, and the stillness became more intense. 

"Right on here a bit now we ll stop," Jed 
said. "This s th Anchor Ranch. They re 
hayin , an full up. We ll get somethin to eat, 
though, an feed for th ponies. Then we ll sleep 
on th ground. Ever do it?" 

"Never." 

"Well, you ve got somethin comin , then. 
With a sky for a roof a man gets close to whatever 
he calls his God an to himself. Some fellers 
out here never seem to see th point. Funny. 
I been sleepin out, off an on, for longer than I 
like to think about an they s a feelin about 



THE TROUBLE HUNTER 53 

it that don t come from nothin else in th world." 

"You think it s a good thing, then, for a man 
to get close to himself?" 

"To be sure I do." 

What if he s trying to get away from himself ? 

Jed tugged at his mustache while the horses 
took a dozen strides. Then he said: 

"That ain t right. When a man thinks he 
wants to get away from himself, that s th coyote 
in him talkin . Then he wants to get closer n 
ever; get down close an fight again that streak 
what s come into him an got around his heart. 
Wants to get down an fight like sin!" 

He whispered the last words. Then, before 
Danny could form an answer, he said, a trifle 
gruffly : 

"Open th gate. I ll ride on an turn th 
horses back." 

They entered the inclosure and rode on toward 
a clump of buildings a half-mile back from the 
road. 

Off to their right ran a strip of flat, cleared land. 
It was dotted with new haystacks, and beyond 
them they could see waving grass that remained 
to be cut. At the corral the two dismounted, 
Danny stiffly and with necessary deliberation. 
As they commenced unsaddling, a trio of hatless 
men, bearing evidences of a strenuous day s labor, 
came from the door of one of the log houses to 
talk with Jed. That is, they came ostensibly 
to talk with Jed; in reality, they came to look at 



54 "I CONQUERED" 

the Easterner wno fumbled awkwardly with his 
cinch. 

Danny looked at them, one after the other, 
then resumed his work. Soon a new voice came 
to his ears, speaking to Avery. He noticed that 
where the little man s greeting to the others had 
been full-hearted and buoyant, it was now curt, 
almost unkind. 

Curious, Danny looked up again looked up to 
meet a leer from a pair of eyes that appeared 
to be only half opened; green eyes, surrounded 
by inflamed lids, under protruding brows that 
boasted but little hair, above high, sunburned 
cheek bones; eyes that reflected all the small 
meanness that lived in the thin lips and short 
chin. As he looked, the eyes leered more omi 
nously. Then the man spoke : 

"Long ways from home, ain t you?" 

Although he looked directly at Danny, although 
he put the question to him and to him alone, 
the boy pretended to misunderstand chose to 
do so because in the counter question he could 
express a little of the quick contempt, the instinc 
tive loathing that sprang up for this man who 
needed not to speak to show his crude, unreason 
ing, militant dislike for the stranger, and whose 
words only gave vent to the spirit of the bully. 

"Are you speaking to me?" Danny asked, 
and the cool simplicity of his expression carried 
its weight to those who stood waiting to hear 
his answer. 



THE TROUBLE HUNTER 55 

The other grinned, his mouth twisting at an 
angle. 

"Who else round here d be far from home?" 
he asked. 

Danny turned to Jed. 

"How far is it?" he asked. 

"A hundred an ten," Jed answered, a swift 
pleasure lighting his serious face. 

Danny turned back to his questioner. 

"I m a hundred and ten miles from home," 
he said with the same simplicity, and lifted the 
saddle from his horse s back. 

It was the sort of clash that mankind the 
world over recognizes. No angry word was 
spoken, no hostile movement made. But the 
spirit behind it could not be misunderstood. 

The man turned away with a forced laugh 
which showed his confusion. He had been 
worsted, he knew. The smiles of those who 
watched and listened told him that. It stung 
him to be so easily rebuffed, and his laugh boded 
ugly things. 

"Don t have anything to do with him," cau 
tioned Jed as they threw their saddles under a 
shed. "His name s Rhues, an he s a nasty, 
snaky cuss. He ll make trouble every chance 
he gets. Don t give him a chance!" 

They went in to eat with the ranch hands. A 
dozen men sat at one long table and bolted im 
mense quantities of food. 

The boiled beef, the thick, lumpy gravy, the 



56 "_I CONQUERED" 

discolored potatoes, the coarse biscuit were as 
strange to Danny as was his environment. His 
initiation back at Colt had not brought him 
close to such crudity as this. He tasted gingerly, 
and then condemned himself for being surprised 
to find the food good. 

"You re a fool!" he told himself. "This is 
the real thing; you ve been dabbling in unre 
alities so long that you ve lost sense of the virtue 
of fundamentals. No frills here, but there s 
substance!" 

He looked up and down at the low-bent faces, 
and a new joy came to him. He was out among 
men! Crude, genuine, real men! It was an 
experience, new and refreshing. 

But in the midst of his contemplation it was 
as though fevered fingers clutched his throat. 
He dropped his fork, lifted the heavy cup, and 
drank the coffee it contained in scorching gulps. 

Once more his big problem had pulled him 
back, and he wrestled with it alone among 
men! 

After the gorging the men pushed back their 
chairs and yawned. A desultory conversation 
waxed to lively banter. A match flared, and the 
talk came through fumes of tobacco smoke. 

"Anybody got th makin s?" asked Jed. 

"Here," muttered Danny beside him, and 
thrust pouch and papers into his hand. 

Danny followed Jed in the cigarette rolling, 
and they lighted from the same match with an 



THE TROUBLE HUNTER 57 

interchange of smiles that added another strand 
to the bond between them. 

"That s good tobacco," Jed pronounced, blow 
ing out a whiff of smoke. 

"Ought to be; it cost two dollars a pound." 

Jed laughed queerly. 

"Yes, it ought to," he agreed, "but we ve got 
a tobacco out here they call Satin. Ten cents a 
can. It tastes mighty good to us." 

Danny sensed a gentle rebuke, but he somehow 
knew that it was given in all kindliness, that it 
was given for his own good. 

"While I fight up one way," he thought, "I 
must fight down another." And then aloud: 
"We ll stock up with your tobacco. What s 
liked by one ought to be good enough for 
He let the sentence trail off. 

Jed answered with: "Both." 

And the spirit behind that word added more 
strength to their uniting tie. 

The day had been a hard one. Darkness 
came quickly, and the workers straggled off 
toward the bunk house. Tossing away the butt 
of his cigarette, Jed proposed that they turn in. 

"I m tired, and you ve got a right to be," 
he declared. 

They walked out into the cool of evening. A 
light flared in the bunk house, and the sound 
of voices raised high came to them. 

"Like to look in?" Avery asked, and Danny 
thought he would. 



58 "_I CONQUERED" 

Men were in all stages of undress. Some were 
already in their beds; others, in scant attire, 
stood in mid-floor and talked loudly. From one 
to another passed Rhues. In his hand he held 
a bottle, and to the lips of each man in turn he 
placed the neck. He faced Jed and Danny as 
they entered. At sight of the stranger a quick 
hush fell. Rhues stood there, bottle in hand, 
leering again. 

"Jed, you don t drink," he said in his drawling, 
insinuating voice, "but mebby yer friend here 
uld like a nightcap." 

He advanced to Danny, bottle extended, an 
evil smile on his face. Jed raised a hand as though 
to interfere; then dropped it. His jaw settled 
in grim resolution, his nostrils dilated, and his 
eyes fixed themselves fast on Danny s face. 

Oh, the wailing eagerness of those abused 
nerves! The cracking of that tortured throat! 
All the weariness of the day, of the week; all the 
sagging of spirit under the assault of the demon 
in him were concentrated now. A hot wave 
swept his body. The fumes set the blood rushing 
to his eyes, to his ears ; made him reel. His hand 
wavered up, half daring to reach for the bottle, 
and the strain of his drawn face dissolved in a 
weak smile. 

Why hold off? Why battle longer? Why 
delay? Why? Why? Why? 

Of a sudden his ears rang with memory of his 
father s brittle voice in cold denunciation, and 



THE TROUBLE HUNTER 59 

the quick passing of that illusion left another 
talking there, in nasal twang, carrying a great 
sympathy. 

"No, thanks," he said just above a whisper. 
"I m not drinking." 

He turned quickly and stepped out the door. 

Through the confusion of sounds and ideas 
he heard the rasping laughter of Rhues, and 
the tone of it, the nasty, jeering note, did 
much to clear his brain and bring him back to 
the fighting. 

Jed walked beside him and they crossed to 
where their rolls of bedding had been dropped, 
speaking no word. As they stooped to pick up 
the stuff the older man s hand fell on the boy s 
shoulder. His fingers squeezed, and then the 
palm smote Danny between the shoulder blades, 
soundly, confidently. Oh, that assurance! This 
man understood. And he had faith in this wreck 
of a youth that he had seen for the first time ten 
hours before! 

Shaken, tormented though he was, weakened 
by the sharp struggle of a moment ago, Danny 
felt keenly and with something like pride that it 
had been worth the candle. He knew, too, with 
a feeling of comfort, that an explanation to Jed 
would never be necessary. 

Silently they spread the blankets and, with a 
simple "Good night," crawled in between. 

Danny had never before slept with his clothes 
on when sober. He had never snuggled be- 



60 "__I CONQUERED" 

tween coarse blankets in the open. But somehow 
it did not seem strange; it was all natural, as 
though it should be so. 

His mind went round and round, fighting away 
the tingling odor that still clung in his nostrils, 
trying to blot out the wondering looks on the 
countenances of those others as they watched 
his struggle to refuse the stuff his tormentor 
held out to him. 

He did not care about forgetting how Rhues s 
laughter sounded. Somehow the feeling of loath 
ing for the man for a time distracted his thought 
from the pleading of his throat, augmented the 
singing of that chord his father had set in motion, 
bolstered his will to do, to conquer this thing! 

But the effect was not enduring. On and on 
through the narrow channels that the fevered 
condition made went his thinking; forever and 
forever it must be so the fighting, fighting, 
fighting; the searching for petty distractions that 
would make him forget for the moment ! 

Suddenly he saw that there were stars mil 
lions upon countless millions of them dusted across 
the dome of the pale heavens as carelessly as a 
baker might dust silvered sugar over the icing of 
a festal cake. Big stars and tiny stars and mere 
little diffusive glows of light that might come 
from a thousand worlds, clustering together out 
there in infinite void. Blue stars and white 
stars, orange stars, and stars that glowed red. 
Stars that sent beams through incalculable space 



THE TROUBLE HUNTER 61 

and stars that swung low, that seemed almost 
attainable. Stars that blinked sleepily and 
stars that stared without wavering, purposeful, 
attentive. Stars alone and lonely; stars in 
bunches. Stars in rows and patterns, as though 
put there with design. 

Danny breathed deeply, as though the pure 
air were stuffy and he needed more of it, for the 
vagary of his wandering mind had carried him 
back to the place where light points were arranged 
by plan. He saw again the electric-light kitten 
and the spool of thread, the mineral-water clock, 
the cigarette sign with flowing border, the 

Whisky again! He moved his throbbing head 
from side to side. 

"Is it a blank wall?" he asked quite calmly. 
1 Shall I always come up against it ? Is there no 
way out?" 



CHAPTER V 

JED PHILOSOPHIZES 

MORNING: a flickering in the east that 
gives again to the black hold of night. 
Another attempt, a longer glimmer. It recedes, 
returns stronger; struggles, bursts from the pall 
of darkness, and blots out the stars before it. 
And after that first silver white come soft colors 
shoots of violet, a wave of pink, then the golden 
glory of a new day. 

Jed Avery yawned loud and lingeringly, push 
ing the blankets away from his chin with blind, 
fumbling motions. He thrust both arms from 
the covers and reached above his head, up and 
up and up ! until he ended with a satisfied 
groan. He sat erect, opening and shutting his 
mouth, rubbed his eyes and stopped a motion 
half completed. 

Danny Lenox slept with lips parted. His 
brown hair the hair that wanted to curl so 
badly was well down over the brow, and the 
skin beneath those locks was damp. One hand 
rested on the tarpaulin covering of the bed, the 
fingers in continual motion. 

"Poor kid!" Jed muttered under his breath. 
"Poor son of a gun! He s in a jack-pot, all 
right, an it 11 take all any man ever had to pull 

62 



JED PHILOSOPHIZES 65. 

1 Mornin , sonny!" he cried as Danny opened 
his eyes and raised his head with a start. 

For a moment the boy stared at him, evidencing 
no recognition. Then he smiled and sat up. 

"How are you, Mr. Avery?" 

"Well," the other began grimly, looking straight 
before him, "Mr. Avery s in a bad way. He 
died about thirty year ago." 

Danny looked at him with a grin. 

"But Old Jed Old VB," he went on, "he s 
alive an happy. Fancy wrappin s is for boxes 
of candy an playin cards," he explained. "They 
ain t necessary to men." 

I see all right, Jed ! 

Danny stared about him at the freshness of the 
young day. 

"Wouldn t it be slick," Jed wanted to know, 
"if we was all fixed like th feller who makes th 
days? If yesterday s was a bad job he can start 
right in on this one an make it a winner! Now, 
if this day turns out bad he can forget it an 
begin to-morrow at sun-up to try th job all over 
again ! 

"Yes, it would be fine to have more chances," 
agreed Danny. 

Jed sat silent a moment. 

"Mebby so, an mebby no," he finally recanted. 
"It would be slick an easy, all right; but mebby 
we d get shiftless. Mebby we d keep puttin 
off tryin hard until next time. As t ?.s, we have 
to make every chance our only one, an work 



64 "_I CONQUERED" 

ourselves to th limit. Never let a chance get 
away! Throw it an tie it an hang on!" 
"In other words, think it s now or never?" 
Jed reached for a boot and declared solemnly: 
"It s th only thing that keeps us onery human 
bein s on our feet an movin along!" 

Breakfast was a brief affair, brief but enthu 
siastic. The gastronomic feats performed at that 
table were things at which to marvel, and Danny 
divided his thoughts between wonder at them 
and recalling the events of the night before. 
Only once did he catch Rhues s eyes, and then 
the leer which came from them whipped a flush 
high in his cheeks. 

Jed and Danny rode out into the morning side 
by side, smoking some of the boy s tobacco. 
As the sun mounted and the breeze did not rise, 
the heat became too intense for a coat, and Danny 
stripped his off and tied it behind the saddle. 
Jed looked at the pink silk shirt a long time. 

"To be sure an that s a fine piece of goods," 
he finally declared. 

Danny glanced down at the gorgeous garment 
with a mingled feeling of amusement and guilt. 
But he merely said: 

"I thought so, too, when I bought it." 
And even that little tendency toward foppish 
ness which has been handed down to men from 
those ancestors who paraded in their finest skins 
and paints before the home of stalwart cave 
women seemed to draw the two closer to each other. 



JED PHILOSOPHIZES 65 

As though he could sense the young chap s 
bewilderment and wonder at the life about him, 
Jed related much that pertained to his own work. 

"Yes, I raise some horses," he concluded, "but 
I sell a lot of wild ones, too. It s fun chasin em, 
and it gets to be a habit with a feller. I like it 
an can make a livin at it, so why should I go 
into cattle? Those horses are out there in th 
hills, runnin wild, like some folks, an doin 
nobody no good. I catch em an halter-break 
em an they go to th river an get to be of use 
to somebody." 

"Is n t it a job to catch them?" Danny asked. 

"Well, I guess so!" Jed s eyes sparkled. 

"Some of em are wiser than a bad man. 
Why, up in our country s a stallion that ain t 
never had a rope on him. Th Captain we ve 
got to call him. He s th wildest an wisest 
critter, horse or human, you ever see. Eight 
years old, an all his life he s been chased an 
never touched. He s big not so big in weight ; 
big like this here man Napoleon, I mean. He 
rules th range. He has th best mares on th 
mountain in his bunch, an he handles em like 
a king. We ve tossed down our whole hand 
time an again, but he always beats us out. 
We re no nearer catchin him to-day than we 
was when he run a yearlin ." 

The little man s voice rose shrilly and his eyes 
flashed until Danny, gazing on him, caught some 
of his fever and felt it run to the ends of his body. 



66 "_I CONQUERED" 

"Oh, but that s a horse ! " Jed went on. " Why, 
just to see him standin up on the sky line, head 
up, tail arched-like, ready to run, not scared, 
just darin us to come get him well, it s worth 
a hard ride. There s somethin about th Cap 
tain that keeps us from hatin him. By all 
natural rights somebody ought to shoot a stallion 
that ll run wild so long an drive off bunches of 
gentle mares an make em crazy wild. But 
no. Nobody on Red Mountain or nobody who 
ever chased th Captain has wanted to harm 
him; yet I ve heard men swear until it would 
make your hair curl when they was runnin him! 
He s that kind. He gets to somethin that s in 
real men that makes em light headed. I guess 
it s his strength. He s bigger n tricks, that 
horse. He s learned all about traps an such, 
an th way men generally catch wild horses don t 
bother him at all. Lordy, boy, but th Captain s 
somethin to set up nights an talk about!" 

His voice dropped on that declaration, almost 
in reverence. 

"Well, he s so wise and strong that he ll just 
keep right on running free; is that the idea?" 
asked Danny. 

Jed gnawed off a fresh chew and repocketed 
the plug, shifted in his saddle, and shook his 
head. 

"Nope, I guess not," he said gravely. "I 
don t reckon so, because it ain t natural; it ain t 
th way things is done in this world. Did you 



JED PHILOSOPHIZES 67 

ever stop to think that of all th strong things us 
men has knowed about somethin has always 
turned up to be a little bit stronger? We ve 
been all th time pattin ourselves on th back 
an sayin , There, we ve gone an done it; that ll 
last forever! an then watchin a wind or a rain 
carry off what we ve thought was so strong. 
Either that, I say, or else we ve been fallin down 
on our knees an prayin for help to stop somethin 
new an powerful that s showed up. An when 
prayin did n t do no good up pops somebody 
with an idea that th Lord wants us folks to carry 
th heavy end of th load in such matters, an gets 
busy workin . An his job ends up by makin 
somethin so strong that it satisfied all them 
prayers folks bein that unparticular that they 
don t mind where th answer comes from so long 
as it comes an they gets th benefits! 

"That s th way it is all th time. We wake 
up in th mornin an see somethin so discour- 
agin that we want to crawl back to bed an quit 
tryin ; then we stop to think that nothin has 
ever been so great or so strong that it kept right 
on havin its own way all th time; an we get 
our sand up an pitch in, an pretty soon we re 
on top! 

"All we need is th sand to tackle big jobs; 
just bein sure that they s some way of doin 
or preventin an makin a reg lar hunt for that 
one thing. So t is with th Captain. He s 
fooled us a long time now, but some day a man 11 



68 "_I CONQUERED" 

come along who s wiser than th Captain, an 
he ll get caught. 

"Nothin strange about it. Just th workin 
out of things. Course, it ll all depend on th 
man. Mebby some of us on th mountain has 
th brains; mebby some others has th sand, but 
th combination ain t been struck yet. We 
ain t men enough. Th feller who catches that 
horse has got to be all man, just like th feller 
who beats out any thin else that s hard; got to 
be man all th way through. If he s only part 
man an tackles th job he s likely to get tromped 
on; if he s all man, he ll do th ridin ." 

Jed stopped talking and gazed dreamily at 
the far horizon; dreamily, but with an eye which 
moved a trifle now and then to take into its range 
the young chap who rode beside him. Danny s 
head was down, facing the dust which rose from 
the feet of the horses ahead. The biting particles 
irritated the membrane of his throat, but for the 
moment he did not heed. "Am I a man all 
the way through?" he kept asking himself. "All 
the way through?" 

And then his nerves stung him vicious y, 
shrieking for the stimulant which had fed them 
so long and so well. His aching muscles pleaded 
for it; his heart, miserable and lonely, missed the 
close, reckless friendships of those days so shortly 
removed, in spite of his realization of what those 
relations had meant ; he yearned for the warming, 
heedless thrills; his eyes ached and called out for 



JED PHILOSOPHIZES 69 

just the one draft that would make them alert, 
less hurtful. 

From every joint in his body came the begging ! 
But that chord down in his heart still vibrated; 
his father s arraignment was in his ears, its truth 
ringing clearly. The incentive to forge ahead, 
to stop the wasting, grew bigger, and his will 
stood stanch in spite of the fact that his spinning 
brain played such tricks as making the click of 
pebbles sound like the clink of ice in glasses! 

Then, too, there was Jed, the big-hearted, 
beside him. And Jed was saying, after a long 
silence, as though he still thought of his theme: 
Yes, sir, us men can do any old thing if we only 
think so! Nothin has ever been too much for 
us; nothin ever will if we only keep on thinkin 
as men ought to think an respectin ourselves." 

Thus they traveled, side by side, the one 
fighting, the other uttering his homely truths and 
watching, always watching, noting effects, detect 
ing temptations when the strain across the worried 
brow and about the tight mouth approached the 
breaking point. With keen intuition he went 
down into the young fellow and found the vibrat 
ing chord, the one that had been set humming 
by scorn and distrust. But instead of abusing 
it, instead of goading it on, Jed nursed it, fed it, 
strengthening the chord itself with his philosophy 
and his optimism. 

They went on down Ant Creek, past the ranches 
which spread across the narrow valley. Again 



70 "_I CONQUERED" 

they slept under the open skies, and Danny once 
more marveled at the stars. 

That second morning was agony, but Jed knew 
no relenting. 

"You re sore an stiff," he said, "but keepin 
at a thing when it hurts is what counts, is what 
gets a feller well an that applies to more things 
than saddle sores, too." 

He said the last as though aside, but the point 
carried. 

At the mouth of the creek, where it flows into 
Clear River, they swung to the west and went 
downstream. Danny s condition became only 
semi-conscious. His head hung, his eyes were 
but half opened. Living resolved itself into three 
things. First and second: the thundering de 
mands and the stubborn resistance of his will. 
When Jed spoke and roused him the remaining 
element come to the fore: his physical suffering. 
That agony became more and more acute as the 
miles passed, but in spite of its sharpness it 
required the influence of his companion s voice 
to awaken him to its reality. 

Always, in a little back chamber of his mind, 
was a bit of glowing warmth his newly born 
love for the man who rode beside him. 

It was night when they reached the ranch. 
We re arrived, sonny ! This is home ! cried Jed, 
slapping Danny on the shoulder. Our home. 
The boy mastered his senses with an effort. 



JED PHILOSOPHIZES 71 

When he dismounted he slumped to one knee 
and Jed had to help him stand erect. 

Danny remembered nothing of the bed going, 
nor could he tell how long the little, gray-haired 
man stood over him, muttering now and then, 
rubbing his palms together; nor of how, when 
he turned toward the candle on the table, burning 
steadily and brightly there in the night like a 
young Crusader fighting back the shadows into the 
veriest corner of the room, his eyes were misted. 

It was a strange awakening, that w T hich followed. 
Danny felt as though he had slept through a 
whole phase of his existence. At first he was not 
conscious of his surroundings, did not try to 
remember where he was or what had gone before. 
He lay on his back, mantled in a strange peace, 
wonderfully content. Torture seemed to have left 
him, bodily torments had fled. His heart pumped 
slowly ; a vague, pleasing weakness was in his bones. 
It was rest rest after achievement, the achieve 
ment of stability, the arrival at a goal. 

Then, breaking into full consciousness, his 
nostrils detected odors. He sniffed slightly, 
scarcely knowing that he did so. Cooking! It 
was unlike other smells from places of cookery 
that he had known; it was attractive, compelling. 

All that had happened since his departure 
from Colt came back to him with his first move 
ment. His body was a center of misery, as 
though it were shot full of needles, as though it 
had been stretched on a rack, then blistered. 



72 "_I CONQUERED" 

Dressing was accomplished to the accompaniment 
of many grunts and quick intakings of breath. 

When he tried to walk he found that the process 
was necessarily slow slower than it had ever been 
before. Setting each foot before the other gingerly, 
as if in experiment, he walked across the tiny room 
toward the larger apartment of the cabin. 

"Mornin !" cried Jed, closing the oven door 
with a gentleness that required the service of 
both hands. "I allowed you d be up about now. 
Just step outside an wash an it ll be about 
ready. Can you eat? Old VB sure can build a 
breakfast, an he s never done better than this." 

"By the smell, I judge so," said Danny. 

The warm breath of baking biscuits came to 
him from the oven. A sputtering gurgle on the 
stove told that something fried. The aroma of 
coffee was in the air, too, and Jed lifted eggs 
from a battered pail to drop them into a steaming 
kettle. The table, its plain top scrubbed to 
whiteness, w r as set for two, and the sunlight that 
streamed through the window seemed to be all 
caught and concentrated in a great glass jar of 
honey that served as a centerpiece. 

Danny s eyes and nostrils and ears took it all 
in as he moved toward the outer doorway. When 
he gained it he paused, a hand on the low lintel, 
and looked out upon his world. 

Away to the south stretched the gulch, rolling 
of bottom, covered with the gray-green sage. 
Over east rose the stern wall, scarred and split, 



JED PHILOSOPHIZES 73 

with cedars clinging in the interstices, their forms 
dark green against the saffron of the rocks. Up 
above, towering into the unstained sky of morn 
ing, a rounded, fluted peak, like the crowning 
achievement of some vast cathedral. 

The sun was just in sight above the cliff, but 
Danny knew that day was aging, and felt, with 
his peace, a sudden sharp affection for the old 
man who, with an indulgence that was close to 
motherly, had let him sleep. It made him feel 
young and incompetent, yet it was good, com 
forting like the peace of that great stillness 
about him. 

Except for the soft sounds from the stove, 
there was no break. Above, on the ridges, a 
breeze might be blowing; but not an intimation 
of it down here. Just quiet silvery and holy. 

The sun shoved itself clear of the screening 
trees. A jack rabbit, startled by nothing at all, 
sprang from its crouching under a brush shelter 
and made off across the gulch with the jerky 
lightness of a stone skipping on water. As he 
bobbed the grass and bushes dewdrops flew from 
them, catching sunbeams as they hurtled out 
to their death, for one instant of wondrous glory 
flashing like gems. 

Danny Lenox, late of New York, drew a deep, 
quivering breath and leaned his head against 
the crude doorway. He was sore and weak and 
felt almost hysterical, but perhaps this was only 
because he was so happy! 



CHAPTER VI 

AMBITION Is BORN 

A ND then began Danny s apprenticeship. 
^~*> Jed, the wise, did not delay activity. He 
commenced with the boy as soon as breakfast 
had been eaten and the dishes washed. 

That first day they shod a horse, Danny doing 
nothing really, but taking orders from Jed as 
though the weight of a vast undertaking rested 
on his shoulders. 

The next day they mended fences from early 
morning until evening. 

Gradually the realization came to Danny that 
he was doing something, that he was filling a 
legitimate place small, surely: nevertheless he 
was being of use, he was creating. A pleasing 
sensation! One of the few truly wholesome 
delights he had ever experienced. Danny thought 
about it with almost childish happiness; then, 
letting his mind return again to the established 
rut, he was surprised to know that mere thinking 
about his simple, homely duties had stilled for 
the time it endured the restless creature within 
him. 

The boy s bodily hurts righted themselves. 
Long hours of sleep did more than anything else 
to speed recovery. Those first two nights he 

74 



AMBITION IS BORN 75 

was between covers before darkness came to the 
gulch, and Jed let him sleep until the sun was 
well up. 

On the third evening they sat outside, Danny 
watching Jed put a new half-sole on a cast-off 
riding boot. 

"They re your size," the old man said, "an 
you ll have to wear boots, to be sure. Them 
things you got on ain t what I d call exactly 
fitted to ridin a horse." 

Danny looked down at his modish Oxfords and 
smiled. Then he glanced up at the man beside 
him, who hammered and cut and grunted while 
he worked as though his very immortality de 
pended on getting those boots ready for his new 
hand to wear. 

Oh, the boy from the city could not then 
appreciate the big feeling of man for mankind 
which prompted such humble labor. It was a 
labor of love, the mere mending of that stiff old 
boot! In it Jed Avery found the encompassing 
happiness which comes to those who understand, 
happiness of the same sort he had felt back there 
at Colt when he saw that there was a human 
being who needed help and that it was in his 
power to give him that help. And the peace this 
happiness engendered created an atmosphere 
which soothed and made warm the heart of the 
boy, though he did not know why. 

"Guess we d better move inside an get a 
lighv," Jed muttered finally. "I ll shut the 



76 "_I CONQUERED" 

corral gate. You light th candle, will you? 
It s on th shelf over th table stickin in a 
bottle." 

Danny watched him go away into the dusk 
and heard the creak of the big gate swinging shut 
before he stepped into the house and groped his 
way along for the shelf. He found it after a 
moment and fumbled along for the candle Jed 
had said was there. His fingers closed on some 
thing hard and cold and cylindrical. He slid 
his fingers upward; then staggered back with a 
half-cry. 

"What s wrong?" asked Jed, coming into the 
house. 

Danny did not answer him, so the old man 
stepped forward toward the shelf. In a moment 
a match flared; the cold wick of the candle took 
the flame, warmed, sent it higher, and a glow 
filled the room. 

The boy looked out from eyes that were dark 
and wide and filled with the old horror. The 
hand held near his lips shook, and he turned on 
Jed a look that pleaded, then gazed back at the 
light. 

The candle was stuck in the neck of a whisky 
bottle. 

Danny opened his lips to speak, but the words 
would not come. That terror was back again, 
shattering his sense of peace, melting the words 
in his throat with its heat. 

Jed moved near to him. 



AMBITION IS BORN 77 

"It s a bright light for such a little candle," 
he said slowly, and a stout assurance was in his 
tone. 

But I I touched the bottle in the dark ! 

Danny s voice was high and strained, and the 
words, when finally they did come, tripped over 
one another in nervous haste. His knees were 
weak under him. Such was the strength of the 
tentacles which reached up to stay his struggles 
and to drag him back into the depths from which 
he willed to rise. Such was the weakness of the 
nervous system on which the strain of the ordeal 
was placed. 

Jed put a hand on the boy s shoulder and gazed 
into the drawn face. 

"It s all right, sonny," he said softly, his voice 
modulating from twang to tenderness in the 
manner it had. "Most men touches it in th 
dark. But don t you see what this bottle s for? 
Don t you see that candle? Burnin away there, 
corkin up th bottle, givin us light so we can 
see?" 

Then the other hand went up to the boy s 
other shoulder, and the little old rancher shook 
young Danny Lenox gently, as though to joggle 
him back to himself. 

"I know, sonny," he said softly. "I know " 
Then he turned away quickly and smote his 
palms together with a sharp crack. 

"Now get to bed. I ll finish these here boots 
to-night and in th mornin we ride. If you re 



78 "__I CONQUERED" 

goin to get to be a top hand, we ve got to quit 
foolin around home an get to learn th country. 
They s a lot of colts we got to brand an a bunch 
of wild ones to gather. It means work lots of 
it for you an me!" 

He set to work, busily thumping on the boot. 

In the morning, Danny was subdued, subdued 
and shaking. The spontaneity that had char 
acterized his first days on the ranch had departed. 
He was still eager for activity, but not for the 
sake of the new experiences in themselves. That 
gnawing was again in his throat, tearing his 
flesh, it seemed, and to still the trembling of his 
hand it was necessary for him to clutch the 
saddle horn and keep his fingers clamped tightly 
about it as they rode along. 

They climbed out of the gulch, horses picking 
their way up an almost impossible trail, and on a 
high ridge, where country rolled and tossed about 
them for immeasurable distances, Jed stopped 
and pointed out the directions to his companion. 

Thirty miles to the south was Clear River 
with its string of ranches, and the town of Ranger, 
their post office. Twenty miles to the southeast 
was the S Bar S Ranch, the center of the coun 
try s cattle activity, and over west, on Sand 
Creek, a dozen miles ride across the hills and 
double that distance by road, was another scatter 
ing of ranches where Dick Worth, deputy sheriff 
for that end of Clear River Coujlty, lived. 



AMBITION IS BORN 79 

"An to th north of us," continued Jed, with 
a sweep of his hand, "they s nothin but hills - 
clean to Wyoming! We re on th outskirts of 
settlements. South of th river it s all ranches, 
but north nothin . Couple of summer camps 
but no ranches. It s a great get-away country, 
all right!" 

The riding was easy that day, and in spite 
of his stiffness Danny wished it were harder, 
because the turmoil kept up within him, and 
even the unbroken talk of Jed, giving him an 
intelligent, interesting idea of the country, could 
not crowd out his disquieting thoughts. 

But it was easier the next day, and Danny took 
a deep interest in the hunt for a band of mares 
with colts that should be branded. Jed s low, 
warning "H-s-s-t! There they are!" set his 
heart pounding wildly, and he listened eagerly 
to the directions the old man gave him; then he 
waited in high excitement while Jed circled and 
got behind the bunch. 

The horses came toward him, and Danny, at 
Jed s shout, commenced to ride for the ranch. 
It was a new, an odd, an interesting game. The 
horses came fast and faster. Now and then to 
his ears floated Jed s repeated cry: "Keep 
goin ! Keep ahead!" And he spurred on, won 
dering at every jump how his horse could possibly 
keep his feet longer in that awful footing. 

But he had faith in the stout little beast he 
rode, and his spirit was of the sort that would 



8o "_I CONQUERED" 

not question when a man as skilled in the game 
as was Jed urged him along. 

The mares with their colts pressed closely, but 
Danny kept going, kept urging speed. Straight 
on for the ranch he headed, and when they reached 
the level bottom of the gulch the race waxed 
warm. 

"Into th round corral!" cried Jed. "Keep 
goin ! You re doin fine!" 

And into the round corral Danny headed his 
mount, while the nose of the lead mare reached 
out at his pony s flank. 

The gate swung shut ; the mares trotted around 
the inclosure, worried, for there their offspring 
had been taken from them before. The coits 
hung close to their mothers, snorting and rolling 
their wide eyes, while the saddle horses stood 
with legs apart, getting their wind. 

Danny s eyes sparkled. 

"That s sport!" he declared. "But, say, will 
these horses always follow a rider that way?" 

Jed loosed his cinch before he answered: 
"Horses is like some men. As long as they re 
bein pushed from behind an they s somebody 
goin ahead of em, they 11 follow follow right 
through high water! But once let em get past 
th rider who s supposed to be holdin em up 
why, then they s no handlin em at all. They 
scatter an go their own way, remainin free. 

"As I said, they re like men. To be sure, 
lots of men has got to give that what s leadin 



AMBITION IS BORN 81 

em such a run that they beat it to death an get 
a chance to go free!" 

Danny rubbed his horse s drenched withers 
and agreed with a nod as Jed walked over to the 
gate and fumbled with the fastening. 

"Say," he said, turning round, "I like th way 
you ride!" 

Danny looked up quickly, pleased. 

"I m glad," he said, but in the simple assertion 
was a great self-pride. 

"Most fellers strange in th country wouldn t 
fancy takin that kind of a bust down off a point. 
No, sir. Not such a ride for us old heads, but 
for a greenhorn - Well, I guess you ll get to be 
a top hand some day, all right!" 

And the influence which more than all else 
was to help Danny become a top hand, which 
was to set up in his heart the great ambition, 
which was to hold itself up as a blazing ideal, 
came early in his novitiate as a horse hunter 
came in a fitting setting, on a day richly golden, 
when the air seemed filled with a haze of holy 
incense, holy with the holiness of beauty. It 
was one of those mountain days when the immen 
sity of nature becomes so obvious and so potent 
that even the beasts leave off their hunting or 
their grazing to gaze into wondrous distances. 
The sage is green and brash in the near sunlight, 
soft and purple out yonder; the hills sharp and 
hard and detailed under the faultless sky for 
unthinkable miles about, then soft and vague, 



82 "_I CONQUERED" 

melting in color and line, rolling, reaching, tossing 
in a repetition of ranges until eyes ache in follow 
ing them and men are weak about their middles 
from the feeling of vastnesses to which measure 
ments by figures are profane. 

Jed and Danny searched for horses along two 
parallel ridges. Now and then they saw each 
other, but for the most part it had been a day 
of solitary riding. 

Late afternoon arrived, and Danny had about 
abandoned hope of success. He was considering 
the advisability of mounting the ridge above 
the gulch into which he had ridden and locating 
Jed, though loath to leave the solitudes. 

His pony picked them out and stopped before 
Danny s eyes registered the sight. The boy 
searched quickly, and over against a clump of 
cedars, halfway up the rise, he saw horses. 

"No, that s not they," he muttered. "Jed said 
there were two white mares among them. Not 

His pony started under him, gave a sharp little 
shudder, then moved a step backward and stood 
still, a barely perceptible tremor shaking his limbs. 

Then a sound new and strange came to Danny. 
He did not know its origin, but it contained a 
quality that sent a thrill pulsing from his heart. 
Shrill it was, but not sharply cut, wavering but 
not breaking; alarm, warning, concern, caution 
the whistle of a stallion! Then silence, while the 
mares stood rigid and the saddle horse held his 
breath. 



AMBITION IS BORN 83 

Again it came, and a quick chill struck down 
Danny s spine. His searching eyes encountered 
the source. There, halfway between the mares 
and the crown of the ridge he stood, out on a 
little rim-rock that made a fitting pedestal, alert, 
defiant, feet firmly planted, with the poise of a 
proud monarch. 

Even across the distance his coat showed the 
glossiness seen only on fine, short hair; his chest, 
turned halfway toward the rider, was splendid in 
breadth and depth, indicating superb strength, 
endurance, high courage. Danny looked with a 
surge of appreciation at the arch of the neck, 
regal in its slim strength, at the fine, straight 
limbs, clean as a dancing girl s; at the long, 
lithe barrel with its fine symmetry. 

A wandering breath of breeze came up the 
gulch, fluttering the wealth of tail, lifting the 
heavy mane and forelock. The horse raised a 
front foot and smote the ledge on which he stood 
as though wrath rose that a mere man should 
ride into his presence, and he would demand 
departure or homage from Danny Lenox. He 
shook his noble head impatiently, to clear his 
eyes of the hair that blew about them. And 
once more came the whistle. 

The mares stirred. One, a bright buckskin, 
trotted up the rise a dozen yards, and stopped 
to turn and look. The others moved slowly, 
eyes and ears for Danny. 

Again the whistle; a clatter of loosened stones 



84 -I CONQUERED" 

as the black leader bounded up the hillside; and 
the bunch was away in his wake. 

"The Captain!" Danny breathed, and then, 
in a cry which echoed down the gulch - The 
Captain!" 

He was scarcely conscious of his movements, 
but his quirt fell, his spurs raked the sides of his 
pony, and the sturdy little animal, young and 
not yet fully developed, doing his best in making 
up the ridge, labored effectively, perhaps drawn 
on by that same raw desire which went straight 
to the roots of Danny s spirit and came back to 
set the fires glowing in his eyes. 

The boy rode far forward in his saddle, his gaze 
on the plunging band that scattered stones and 
dirt as they strove for the top. But he was 
many lengths behind when the last mare disap 
peared over the rim. He fanned his pony again, 
and the beast grunted in his struggles for in 
creased speed in the climbing, lunging forward 
with mighty efforts which netted so little ground. 

As he toiled up the last yards Danny saw the 
Captain again, standing there against the sky, 
watching, waiting, mane and tail blowing about 
him. His strong, full, ever delicate body quivered 
with the singing spirit of confidence within him 
and communicated itself to the weakling pursuer. 
Just a glimpse of the man was all that the black 
horse wanted, then he was off. 

As Danny s horse caught the first stride in the 
run down the ridge he saw the Captain stretch 



AMBITION IS BORN 85 

that fine nose out to the flank of a lagging mare, 
and saw the animal throw her head about in 
pain as the strong teeth nipped her flesh, com 
manding more speed. 

Danny Lenox was mad ! He pulled off his hat 
and beat his pony s withers with it. He cried aloud 
the Captain s name. He went on and on, dropping 
far down on his horse s side as they brushed under 
the cedars, settling firmly to the seat when the 
animal leaped over rocks. His shirt was open at 
the neck, and his throat was chilled with the swift 
rush of air, while hot blood swirled close to the 
skin. His eyes glowed with the fire set there by 
this new fascination, the love of beautiful strength ; 
and through his body sang the will to conquer ! 

It was an unfair race. Danny and his light 
young horse had no chance. Off and away drew 
the stallion and his bunch, without effort after that 
first crazy break down the ridge. The last Danny 
saw of him was with head turned backward, nose 
lifted, as though he breathed disdainful defiance 
at the man who would come in his wake with the 
thirst for possession high within him! 

And so the boy pulled up, dropped off, and let 
his breathing pony rest. His legs were uncertain 
under him, and he knew that his pulses raced. 
For many minutes he strove to analyze his emo 
tion but could not. 

Jed slid off the next ridge and came up at a 
trot. His face was radiant. "Well, he got you, 
did n t he?" He laughed aloud. 



86 "_I CONQUERED" 

"I thought he would, all along; and I knowed he 
had you when I see you break up over th ridge. 
You ve got th fever now, like a lot of th rest of 
us ! Mebby you 11 chase horses here for years, but 
you 11 always have an eye out for just one thing 
th Captain. You won t be satisfied until you ve 
got him like all of us; not satisfied until we ve 
done th biggest thing there is in sight to do." 

Then, as though parenthetically: "An when 
we ve done that we ve only h isted ourselves up 
to where we can see that they s a hunderd times 
as much to do." 

"Gad, but he goes right into a fellow s heart!" 
breathed Danny, looking into the sunset. "I 
did n t know I was following him, Jed, until the 
pony here commenced to tire." 

He laughed apologetically, as though confessing 
a foolishness, but his face was glowing with a new 
light. A fresh incentive had come to him with 
this awakening admiration, inciting him to 
emulation. The spirit of the stallion stirred in 
him again that vibrant chord which had been 
urging him to fight on, not to give up. 

His ambition to overcome his weakness began 
to take quick, definite direction. Added to the 
effort of overcoming his vices would henceforth 
be the endeavor to achieve, to compass some 
worthy object. This was his aim: to be a leader 
to whom men would turn for inspiration; to be 
unconquerable among men, as the Captain was 
unconquerable among his kind. 



AMBITION IS BORN &, 

As the ideal took shape, springing full-born 
from his excitement, Danny Lenox felt lifted 
above himself, felt stronger than human strength, 
felt as though he were forever beyond human 
weaknesses. 

When they had ridden twenty minutes in 
silence Jed broke out: "Sonny, I don t want 
to act like n old woman, but I guess I m gettin 
childish! I ve knowed you less than a month. 
I don t even know who you was when you come. 
We don t ask men about theirselves when they 
come in here. What a feller wants to tell, we 
take ; what he keeps to hisself we wonder at with 
out mentionin it. 

"But you, sonny you couldn t keep it 
from me. I know what it is, I know. I seen 
it when you got off th train at Colt seen 
that somethin had got you down. I knowed 
for sure what it was when you stopped by th 
saloon there. I knowed how honest you was 
with yourself in that little meetin with Rhues. 
I know all about it cause I ve been through 
th same thing alone, an years ago." 

After a pause he went on: "An just now, 
when I seen you comin down that ridge after 
th Captain, I knowed th right stuff was in you 
because when a thing like that horse touches a 
man off it s a sign he s th right kind, th kind 
that wants to do things for th sake of knowin 
his own strength. You ve got th stuff in you 
to be a man, but you re fightin an awful fight. 



88 "_I CONQUERED" 

You need help; you ought to have friends you 
ought to have a daddy!" 

He gulped, and for a dozen strides there were 
no more words. 

"I feel like adoptin you, sonny, cause I know. 
I feel like makin you a part of this here outfit, 
which ain t never branded a colt that did n t 
belong to it, which ain t never done nothin 
but go straight ahead an be honest with itself, 
good times an bad. 

"I used to be proud when they called me Old 
VB, cause they all knowed th brand was on th 
level, an when they, as you might say, put it 
on me, I felt like I was wearin some sort of 
medal. I feel just like makin you part of th 
VB Young VB - - cause I can help you here 
an an fore God A mighty you need help, 
man that you are!" 

An hour and a half later, when the last dish 
had been wiped, when the dishpan had been hung 
away, Danny spoke the next words. He walked 
close to the old man, his face quiet under the 
new consciousness of how far he must go to 
approach this new ideal. He took the hard old 
hand in his own, covered its back with the other, 
and muttered in a voice that was far from clear: 
"Goodnight, Old VB." 

And the other, to cover the tenderness in his 
tone, snapped back: "Get to bed, Young VB; 
they s that ahead of you to-morrow which 11 
take every bit of your courage and strength!" 



CHAPTER VII 

WITH HOOF AND TOOTH 

SO IT came to pass that Danny Lenox of New 
York ceased to exist, and a new man took 
his place Young VB, of Clear River County, 
Colorado. 

"Who s your new hand?" a passing rider asked 
Jed one morning, watching with interest as the 
stranger practiced with a rope in the corral. 

"Well, sir, he s th ridin est tenderfoot you 
ever see!" Jed boasted. "I picked him up out 
at Colt an put him to work after Charley 
went away." 

Where d he come from ? What s his name ? 
the other insisted. 

"From all appearances, he ain t of these parts," 
replied Jed, squinting at a distant peak. "An 
around here we ve got to callin him Young 
VB." 

The rider, going south, told a man he met 
that Jed had bestowed his brand on a human of 
another generation. Later, he told it in Ranger. 
The man he met on the road told it on Sand Creek ; 
those who heard it in Ranger bore it off into the 
hills, for even such a small bit of news is a meaty 
morsel for those who sit in the same small com 
pany about bunk-house stoves months on end. 



9 o "_I CONQUERED" 

The boy became known by name about the coun 
try, and those who met him told others what the 
stranger was like. Men were attracted by his 
simplicity, his desire to learn, by his frank im 
pulse to be himself yet of them. 

"Oh, yes, he s th feller," they would recall, 
and then recite with the variations that travel 
gives to tales the incident that transpired in the 
Anchor bunk house. 

Young VB fitted smoothly into the work of 
the ranch. He learned to ride, to rope, to shoot, 
to cook, and to meet the exigencies of the range; 
he learned the country, cultivated the instinct 
of directions. And, above all, he learned to 
love more than ever the little old man who 
fathered and tutored him. 

And Young VB became truly useful. It was 
not all smooth progress. At times and they 
were not infrequent the thirst came on him 
with vicious force, as though it would tear his 
will out by the roots. 

The fever which that first run after the Cap 
tain aroused, and which made him stronger than 
doubtings, could not endure without faltering. 
The ideal was ever there, but at times so elusive! 
Then the temptings came, and he had to fight 
silently, doggedly. 

Some of these attacks left him shaking in spite 
of his mending nerves left him white in spite 
of the brown that sun and wind put on him. 
During the daytime it was bad enough, but 



WITH HOOF AND TOOTH 91 

when he woke in the night, sleep broken sharply, 
and raised unsteady hands to his begging throat, 
there was not the assuring word from Jed, or 
the comfort of his companionship. 

The old man took a lasting pride in Danny s 
adaptability. His comments were few indeed, 
but when the boy came in after a day of hard, 
rough, effective toil, having done all that a son 
of the hills could be expected to do, the little 
man whistled and sang as though the greatest 
good fortune in the world had come to him. 

One morning Jed went to the corral to find VB 
snubbing up an unbroken sorrel horse they had 
brought in the day before. He watched from 
a distance, while the young man, after many 
trials, got a saddle on the animal s back. 

"Think you can?" he asked, his eyes twinkling, 
as he crawled up on the aspen poles to watch. 

"I don t know, Jed, but it s time I found out!" 
was the answer, and in it was a click of steely 
determination. 

It was not a nice ride, not even for the short 
time it lasted. Young VB "went and got it" 
early in the melee. He clung desperately to the 
saddle horn with one hand, but with the other 
he plied his quirt and between every plunge his 
spurs raked the sides of the bucking beast. 

He did not know the art of such riding, but 
the courage was there and when he was thrown 
it was only at the moment when the sorrel put 
into the battle his best. 



92 "__I CONQUERED" 

VB got to his feet and wiped the dust from his 
eyes. 

"Hurt?" asked Jed. 

"Nothing but my pride," muttered the boy. 
He grasped the saddle again, got one foot in the 
stirrup, and, after being dragged around the 
inclosure, got to the seat. 

Again he was thrown, and when he arose and 
made for the horse a third time Jed slipped down 
from the fence to intervene. 

"Not again to-day," he said, with a pride that 
he could not suppress. "Take it easy; try him 
again to-morrow." 

"But I don t want to give up!" protested the 
boy. "I can ride that horse." 

"You ain t givin up; I made you," the other 
smiled. "You ought to have been born in the 
hills. You d have made a fine bronc twister. 
Ain t it a shame th way men are wasted just by 
bein born out of place?" 

VB seemed not to hear. He rubbed the nose 
of the frantic horse a moment, then said: 

" If I could get this near the Captain Jed, 
if I could ever get a leg over that stallion he d 
be mine or I d die trying!" 

"Still thinkin of him?" 

"All the time! I never forget him. That 
fellow has got into my blood. He s the biggest 
thing in this country the strongest and I 
want to show him that there s something a little 
stronger, something that can break the power 



WITH HOOF AND TOOTH 93 

he s held so long and that I am that some 
thing!" 

"That s considerable ambition," Jed said, 
casually, though he wanted to hug the boy. 

"I know it. Most people out here would think 
me a fool if they heard me talk this way. Me, 
a greenhorn, a tenderfoot, talking crazily about 
doing what not one of you has ever been able 
to do!" 

"Not exactly, VB. It s th wantin to do 
things bad enough that makes men do em, 
remember. This feller busted you twice, but 
you ve got th stuff under your belt that makes 
horses behave. That s th only stuff that ll 
ever make th Captain anything but th wild 
thing he is now. Sand! Grit! Th wantin to 
do it!" 

A cautious whistle from Jed that afternoon 
called VB into a thicket of low trees, from where 
he looked down on a scene that drove home 
even more forcibly the knowledge of the strength 
of spirit that was incased in the glossy coat of 
the great stallion. 

"Look!" the old man said in a low voice, 
pointing into the gulch. " It s a Percheron 
one of Thorpe s stallions. He s come into th 
Captain s band an they re goin to fight!" 

VB looked down on the huge gray horse, 
heavier by three hundred pounds than the black, 
stepping proudly along over the rough gulch 
bottom, tossing his head, twisting it about on 



94 -I CONQUERED" 

his neck, his ears fiat, his tail switching savagely. 

Up the far rise huddled the mares. The Cap 
tain was driving the last of them into the bunch 
as VB came in sight. That done, he turned to 
watch the coming of the gray. 

Through the stillness the low, malicious, muf 
fled crying of the Percheron came to them clearly 
as he pranced slowly along, parading his graces 
for the mares up there, displaying his strength 
to their master, who must come down and battle 
for his sovereignty. 

The Captain stood and watched as though 
mildly curious, standing close to his mares. His 
tail moved slowly, easily, from side to side. His 
ears, which had been stiffly set forward at first, 
slowly dropped back. 

The gray drew nearer, to within fifty yards, 
forty, thirty. He paused, pawed the ground, 
and sent a great puff of dust out behind him. 

Then he swung to the left and struck up the 
incline, headed directly for the Captain, striding 
forward to humble him under the very noses of 
his mares the band that would be the prize 
of that coming conflict! 

He stopped again and pawed spitefully. He 
rose on his hind legs slowly, head shaking, fore 
feet waving in the air, as though flexing his 
muscles before putting them to the strain of 
combat. 

He settled to the ground barely in time, for 
with a scream of rage the black horse hurtled. 



WITH HOOF AND TOOTH 95 

He seemed to be under full speed at the first 
leap, and the speed was terrific! 

Foam had gathered on his lips, and the rush 
down the pitch flung it spattering against his 
glossy chest. His shrilling did not cease from 
the time he left his tracks until, with front hoofs 
raised, a catapult of living, quivering hate, he 
hurled himself at the gray. It ended then in 
a wail of frenzy not of fear, but of royal rage 
at the thought of any creature offering challenge! 

The gray dropped back to all fours, whirled 
sharply, and took the impact at a glancing blow, 
a hip cringing low as the ragged hoofs of the black 
crashed upon it. The Captain stuck his feet 
stiffly into the ground, plowing great ruts in the 
earth in his efforts to stop and turn and meet 
the rush of the other, as he recovered from the 
first shock, gathered headway, and bore down 
on him. He overcame his momentum, turning 
as he came to a stop, lifted his voice again, and 
rose high to meet hoof for hoof the ponderous 
attack that the bigger animal turned on him. 

The men above heard the crash of their meeting. 
The impact of flesh against flesh was terrific. 
For the catch of an instant the horses seemed 
to poise, the Captain holding against the fury 
that had come upon him, holding even against 
the odds of lightness and up-hill fighting. Then 
they swayed to one side, and VB uttered a low 
cry of joy as the Captain s teeth buried them 
selves in the back of the Percheron s neck. 



96 "__I CONQUERED" 

Close together then they fought, throwing 
dirt and stones, ripping up the brush as their 
rumbling feet found fresh hold and then tore 
away the earth under the might that was brought 
to bear in the assault and resistance. A dozen 
times they rushed upon each other, a dozen 
times they parted and raised for fresh attack. 
And each time the gray body and the black 
met in smacking crash it was the former that 
gave way, notwithstanding his superior weight. 

"Look at him!" whispered Jed. "Look at 
that cuss! He hates that gray so that he s got 
th fear of death in him! Look at them ears! 
Hear him holler! He s too quick. Too quick, 
an he s got th spirit that makes up th difference 
in weight an more, too!" 

He stopped with a gasp as the Captain, catch 
ing the other off balance, smote him on the ribs 
with his hoofs until the blows sounded like the 
rumble of a drum. The challenger threw up his 
head in agony and cringed beneath the torment, 
running side wise with bungling feet. 

"He like to broke his back!" cried Jed. 

"And look at him bite!" whispered VB. 

The Captain tore at the shoulders and neck 
of the gray horse with his gleaming, malevolent 
teeth. Again and again they found fleshhold, 
and his neck bowed with the strength he put 
into the wrenching, while his feet kept up their 
terrific hammering. 

No pride of challenge in the gray now; no 



WITH HOOF AND TOOTH 97 

display of graces for the onlooking mares; no 
attacking; just impotent resistance, as the 
Captain drove him on and on down the gulch, 
humbled, terrified, routed. 

The sounds of conflict became fainter as the 
Percheron strove to make his escape and the 
Captain relentlessly followed him, the desire to 
kill crying from his every line. 

The battling beasts rounded a point of rocks, 
and the two men sprang to their horses to follow 
the moving fight. But they were no more than 
mounted when the Captain came back, swinging 
along in his wonderful trot, ears still flat, head 
still shaking, anger possessing him anger and 
pride. 

He was unmarked by the conflict, save with 
sweat and dust and foam; he was still possessed 
of his superb strength. He went up the pitch 
to his band with all the vigor of stride he had 
displayed in flying from it to answer the presump 
tion of the gray. And the mares, watching him, 
seemed to draw long breaths, dropped their 
heads to the bunch grass, and, one by one, moved 
along in their grazing. 

Jed looked at VB. What he saw in the boy s 
face made him nod his head slowly in affirmation. 

"You re that sort, too," he whispered exult- 
ingly. "You re that sort! His kind!" 



CHAPTER VIII 

A HEAD OF YELLOW HAIR 

HP HE next day Jed declared for a trip to Ranger 
* after grub. The trip was necessary, and it 
would be an education for VB, he said with a 
chuckle, to see the town. But when they were 
ready to start a rider approached the ranch. 

"If it ain t Kelly!" Jed cried. Then, in expla 
nation: "He s a horse buyer, an must be comin 
to see me." 

And the man s desire to look over the VB stuff 
was so strong that Jed declared it would be busi 
ness for him to stay at home. 

In a way, Danny was glad of the opportunity 
to go alone. It fed the glowing pride in his 
ability to do things, to be of use, and after a short 
interchange of drolleries with the man Kelly, 
whom he instinctively liked, the boy mounted 
to the high wagon seat and drove off down the 
gulch. 

It was a long drive, and hours alone are con 
ducive to thought. Danny s mind went back 
over the days that had passed, wandering along 
those paths he had followed since that July 
morning in the luxuriously dim house on River 
side Drive. And the reason for his departing 
from the old way came back to him now, because 

98 



A HEAD OF YELLOW HAIR 99 

he was alone, with nothing to divert his attention. 
The old turbulence arose; it wore and wore with 
the miles, eating down to his will, teasing, coax 
ing, threatening, pleading, fuming. 

"Will it always be so?" he asked the distances. 
"When it comes to challenge me, to take away 
all that I hold dear, shall I always be afraid? 
Shan t I be able to stand and fight and triumph, 
merely raging because it dares tempt me instead 
of fearing this thing itself?" 

And he spoke as he thought in terms of his 
ideal, as materialized in the Captain. 

"But will it always be so with him?" he asked 
again. "Won t some horse come to challenge 
him some day and batter him down and make 
defeat all the more bitter because of the suprem 
acy he has enjoyed? Would it then be worth 
the candle?" 

And as he bowed his head he thought once more 
of the beacon in the bottle, corking it up, driving 
back the shadows, making a livable place in the 
darkness. 

Nothing is ever intrinsically curious. Curi- 
ousness comes solely from relationships. Time 
and place are the great factors in creating oddi 
ties. Five miles farther on VB saw a curious 
thing. This was at the forks of the road. To his 
right it went off behind the long, rocky point 
toward Sand Creek; to the left it wandered 
through the sage brush over toward the S Bar S 



ioo "_I CONQUERED" 

Ranch, and ahead it ran straight on to Ranger. 

Along the prong that twisted to the left went 
an automobile. Nothing curious about that to 
VB, for many times he had seen Bob Thorpe 
driving his car through the country. 

But at the wheel was a lone figure crowned by 
a mass of yellow hair. That was the curious 
thing he saw! 

All VB could distinguish at that distance with 
his hot eyes was yellow hair. The machine 
picked its way carefully along the primitive road, 
checking down here, shooting ahead there, going 
on toward the horizon, bearing the yellow 
hair away from him, until it was only a crawling 
thing with a long, floating tail of dust. But 
it seemed to him he could still make out that 
bright fleck even after the automobile had become 
indistinguishable. 

"She s alone," muttered VB. "She s driving 
that car alone and out here!" 

Then he wondered with a laugh why he should 
think it so strange. Many times he had ridden 
down Fifth Avenue in the afternoon traffic 
congestion beside a woman who piloted her own 
car. Surely the few hazards of this thorough 
fare were not to be compared with that! 

But it was the incongruity which his associa 
tion of ideas brought up that made him tingle 
a little. That hair! It did not belong out here. 
He had not been near enough to see the girl s 
face he was sure it was a girl, not a grown 



CALIFORNIA WESTERN UNIVERSITY 
RYAN LIBRARY 



A HEAD OF YELLOW HAIR 101 

woman but the color of her crowning adorn 
ment suggested many and definite things. And 
those things were not of these waste places ; were 
not rough and primal. They were finer, higher. 

Once before he had experienced this nameless, 
pleasurable sensation of being familiar with the 
unknown. That had been when Jed had sketched 
with a dozen unrelated words a picture of the 
daughter of the house of Thorpe. 

The motor car with its fair-haired pilot had 
been gone an hour when Danny, watching a 
coyote skulk among distant rocks, said aloud: 
East college I 11 bet I I wonder " 

Dusk had come w r hen Young VB entered 
Ranger and put up at the ranch, which made as 
much pretense of buildings as did the town itself. 
Morning found him weak and drawn, as it alw-ays 
did after a night of the conflict, yet he was up 
with the sun, eager to be through with his task 
and back with Jed. 

Purchasing supplies is something of a rite in 
Ranger, and under other conditions, on another 
day perhaps, it might have amused VB ; but with 
the unrest within him he found little about the 
procedure that did not irritate. 

In the store there one may buy everything in 
hardware from safety pins to trace chains; gro 
ceries range from canned soup to wormy nuts; 
in drugs anything, bounded on one end by horse 
liniment and on the other extreme by eye-drops 
guaranteed to prevent cataracts, is for sale; and 



io2 "_I CONQUERED" 

overalls and sewing silk are alike popular com 
modities. All is in fine order, and the manager 
is a walking catalogue of household necessities. 

VB was relieved when the buying had been 
accomplished. He crowded a can of ten-cent 
tobacco into the pocket of his new overalls and 
started for the team. A dozen strides away from 
the store building he paused to look about. It 
was his first inspection of Ranger in daylight, 
and now as he surveyed its extent his sense of 
humor rose above the storm within him, and 
he grinned. 

The store, with its conventional false front, 
stood beside the post office, which was built as 
a lean-to. Next to it was a building of red corru 
gated iron, and sounds of blacksmithing issued 
from it. Behind VB was a tiny house, with a 
path running from it to the store, the home of 
the manager. Next it a log cabin. Down at 
the left, near the river, was another house, 
deserted, the ranch where he had stayed, and 
beyond it a trio of small shacks on the river bank. 

"Ranger," he muttered, and chuckled. 

The road, brown and soft with fine dust, 
stretched on and on toward Utah, off to the west 
where silence was supreme. 

The buildings were all on the north side of the 
road. 

"A south front was the idea, I suppose," VB 
murmured. "Mere matter of " 

His gaze had traveled across the road to a 



A HEAD OF YELLOW HAIR 103 

lone building erected there, far back against a 
sharp rise of ground. It stood apart, as though 
consciously aloof from the rest, a one-story struc 
ture, and across its front a huge white sign, on 
which in black characters was painted the word: 



SALOON 



Unconsciously his tongue came out to wet the 
parched lips and his fingers plucked at the seams 
of the new overalls. 

Why not? the insidious self argued, why not? 
All changes must come gradually. Nothing can 
be accomplished in a moment. Just one drink 
to cool his throat, to steady his nerves, and brace 
him for the fight he would make later. 

As he stood there listening to that inner voice, 
yet holding it off, he did not hear the fall of hoofs 
behind him or the jingle of spurs as a rider dis 
mounted and approached. 

But he did hear the voice drawling, nasty, 
jeering : 

"Was you considerin havin a bit o refresh 
ment, stranger?" 

VB wheeled quickly and looked straight into 
the gieen glitter of Rhues s red-lidded eyes. 
The cruel mouth was stretched in an angular 
grin, and the whole countenance expressed the 
incarnate spirit of the bully. 



io 4 "I CONQUERED" 

Into Danny s mind leaped the idea that this 
thing before him, this evil-eyed, jeering, leering, 
daring being, typified all that was foul in his 
heart just as the Captain typified all that was 
virtuous. 

The intuitive repulsion surged to militant hate. 
He wanted to smother the breath which kept 
alive such a spirit, wanted to stamp into the dust 
the body that housed it because it mocked 
him and tempted him! But Young VB only 
turned and brushed past the man without a word. 

He heard Rhues s laughter behind him, and 
heard him call : Ranger ain t no eastern Sunday 
school. Better have one an be a man, like th 
rest o th boys!" 

However, when Rhues turned back to his 
pony the laugh was gone and he was puzzling 
over something. After he had mounted, he 
looked after the boy again maliciously. 

VB was on the road in half an hour, driving 
the horses as fast as he dared. He wanted to be 
back in Jed s cabin, away from Ranger. This 
thing had followed him across the country to 
Colt; from Colt to the Anchor; and now It lurked 
for him in Ranger. The ranch was his haven. 

The settlement by the river reached its claws 
after him as he drove, fastening them in his 
throat and shaking his will until it seemed as 
though it had reached the limit of its endurance. 

It was dark when he reached home. A mile 
away he had seen the light and smiled weakly 



A HEAD OF YELLOW HAIR 105 

at thought of it, and the horses, more than willing, 
carried the wagon over the remaining distance 
with a bouncing that threatened its contents. 

When VB pulled up before the outer gate Jed 
hurried from the cabin. 

"VB," he called, "are you all right?" 

"All right, Jed," he answered, dropping from 
the seat. 

And the boy thought he heard the older man 
thank his God. 

Without words, they unharnessed and went 
to the cabin. Kelly was sleeping loudly in the 
adjoining room. The table had been moved 
from its usual place nearer to the window, and 
the bottle with its burning candle was close against 
the pane. Jed looked at the candle, than at VB. 

"I m sorry," he said, seeing the strain about 
the boy s mouth. "I never thought about it 
until come night, Young VB. I never thought 
about it. I I guess I m an old fool, gettin 
scared th way I do. So I shoved this candle 
up against th window because I m an old 
fool and thought it might help a little." 

And VB answered: "It does help, Jed! Every 
little thing helps. And oh, God, how I need it!" 

He turned away. 



CHAPTER IX 

PURSUIT 

OUMMER drew toward its close and the work 
*J became more exacting. Jed was sure that 
more of his colts ran the range without brands, 
and the two rode constantly, searching every 
gulch and break for the strays. One day they 
went far to the east, and at noon encountered 
three of Bob Thorpe s men building fence. 

"It s his new drift fence," Jed explained. 
"He s goin to have a lot of winter pasture, to be 
sure he is. It ll help us, too. When we come 
takin these here willow tails off this ridge they ll 
find somethin new. It s so close up to the foot 
of the rise that they can t jump it." 

"Thorpe must be rich," remarked Young VB 
as they went on along the fence. 

"Rich don t say it! He s rollin in money, 
an he sure knows how to enjoy it. Every winter, 
when things gets squared away, he takes his wife 
an goes to California. I s pose he ll be takin 
his girl, too now that she s quit goin to school." 

The boy wanted to ask questions about this 
daughter of Bob Thorpe s, but a diffidence, for 
which there was no accounting, held him back. 
He was curious as he had been whenever he heard 
of or thought of her, and as he had been when he 

106 



PURSUIT 107 

had once seen her. But somehow he did not care 
to admit that curiosity even to Jed, and when he 
tried to analyze the reason for his reticence there 
was no doing so. 

Now came more knowledge of the waste places 
with weeks of riding; more knowledge of the 
barren area in his own heart with self-study; 
more pertinent, that which the Captain typified. 

And all the time that struggle continued, which 
at times seemed only the hopeless floundering 
of a man in quicksands life on the river bank 
so close; death below, certain, mocking his 
efforts. 

"He has faith in himself because he is physi 
cally equipped," VB murmured one day as he 
saw the Captain standing against the sky on a 
distant ridge. "His belief in himself is justified. 
But. I what do I know about my own capa 
bilities?" 

Yet a latent quality in the boy was the sort 
that offsets doubts, else why this emulation of the 
stallion, why this feeling that was almost love, 
constant, always growing, never hesitating ? 

Like most men, Young VB was unprepared for 
the big moments of his life. Could we only 
foresee them, is the plaint of men! Could we 
only know and go out to meet them in spirit 
proper! And yet that very state of preparation 
might take from the all-encompassing grandeur 
of those passages a potent element. 



io8 _I CONQUERED" 

After all, this scheme of things has its com 
pensations, and inability to foretell the future 
may be one of the greatest. 

With fear in his heart and black discourage 
ment and lack of faith, Young VB went out to 
meet what proved to be his first great moment. 

Jed had gone to the railroad, bound for the 
Springs, to untangle a mess of red tape that had 
snarled about his filing on some land. VB was 
left alone, and for days the young fellow saw no 
one. In the natural loneliness that followed, the 
assault came upon him with manifold force. He 
could not sleep, could not eat, could not remain 
in one place or keep his mind on a fixed purpose. 

He walked about, talking to himself in the 
.silence, trying ineffectually to do the necessary 
work of the ranch, trying to stifle the loud voice 
that begged him to forego all the struggle and 
let his impulses carry him where they would. 

But were not his impulses carrying him? 
Was it not his first impulse to go on with the 
fight? He did not think of that. 

At times it was hard indeed to differentiate 
between the real and the unreal. The voice 
that wheedled was such a twister of words and 
terms, and its ally, the thirst, raged with such 
virility that he was forced to do something with 
his body. To remain an unresisting victim to 
the torture would only invite disaster. 

Throwing a saddle on his "top" horse, Young 
VB set out, leaving the half -prepared dinner as 



PURSUIT 109 

it was, unable even to wait for food. He rode 
swiftly up the gulch to where it forked, and then 
to the right, letting the stanch animal under 
him cover the ground at a swinging trot. In 
three hours he was miles from the ranch, far 
back in the hills, and climbing to the top of a 
stretching ridge. He breathed through his mouth, 
to let the air on his burning throat, and twisted 
his bridle reins until the stout leather was mis 
shapen, utterly lost in the conflict which went 
on within, heedless cf all else. 

Suddenly he realized that his horse had come 
a long distance without rest. He dismounted in 
a thicket of cedars, sharply repentant that his 
own torment had led him to forget the beast 
that served him, and even the distraction of 
that concern brought relief. 

With the cinch eased the horse stood and 
breathed gratefully. But he was not fagged, 
he was still alert and eager. His ears were set 
stiffly forward, and he gazed upwind, sniffing 
softly now and then. 

"What you see, cayuse?" VB asked, trying 
to make out the cause of that attentiveness. 

Again the sniffing, and of a sudden the horse 
froze, stopped his breathing, and VB, a hand 
on the beast s hip, felt a quick tremor run through 
him. 

Then the man saw that which had caused the 
animal to tremble, and the sight set him tingling 
just as it always did. 



no "_I CONQUERED" 

A hundred yards up the ridge, sharp against 
the sky, commanding, watchful, stood the Cap 
tain. He had not seen or scented VB, for he 
looked in other directions, moving his head from 
point to point, scanning every nook of the coun 
try below him. Something mannish there was 
about that beast, a comprehensive, planned vigi 
lance. Down below him in a sag fed the mares. 

As VB looked at that watcher he felt the lust 
to possess crawling up, surging through him, 
blotting out that other desire, that torment, 
making his breath congest, making his mouth 
dry. He tightened his cinch and mounted. 

The Captain did not see VB until the rider 
came clear of the cover in which he had halted. 

For the instant only, as the rushing horseman 
broke through the cedars, a scudding, fluttering 
object hurtling across the low brush, the black 
stallion stood as though his feet were imbedded 
in the rock under him, his head full toward the 
rushing rider, nose up, astonishment in the very 
angle of his stiff ears. Then those ears went 
flat; the sleek body pivoted on its dainty hind 
feet, and a scream of angered warning came 
from the long throat. 

Even as the Captain s front hoofs clawed the 
ground in his first leap, the mares were running. 
They drew close together, frightened by the 
abruptness of the alarm, scuttling away from the 
punishment they knew would be coming from, 
their master if they wasted seconds. 



PURSUIT in 

VB was possessed again. His reason told him 
that a single horseman had no chance in the 
world with that bunch, that he could not hope 
to keep up even long enough to scatter the band, 
that he would only run his mount down, good 
horse that he was. But the lust urged him on, 
tugging at his vitals, and he gave vent to his 
excitement in sharp screams of joy, the joy of 
the hunt and the joy of honest attempt at 
supreme accomplishment. 

The dust trailed behind the bunch, enveloping 
the rushing Captain in a dun mantle, finally to 
be whipped away by the breeze. They tore 
down stiff sagebrush in their flight; and so great 
was the strain that their bellies skimmed incred 
ibly close to the ground. 

VB s horse caught the spirit of the chase, as 
do all animals when they follow their kind. He 
extended himself to the last fiber, and with aston 
ishment a glad astonishment that brought a 
whoop of triumph the boy saw that the mares 
were not drawing away that he was crawling 
up on them! 

But the Captain! Ah, he was running away 
from the man who gave chase, was putting more 
distance between them at every thundering leap, 
was drawing closer to his slower mares, lip 
stretched back over his gleaming teeth, jaws 
working as he strained to reach them and make 
that band go still faster. 

VB s quirt commenced to sing its goading tune, 



ri2 "_I CONQUERED" 

slashing first on one side, then on the other. He 
hung far forward over the fork of his saddle, 
leaning low to offer the least possible resistance 
to the wind. Now and then he called aloud to 
his pony, swearing with glad savagery. 

The Captain reached his bunch, closing in on 
them with a burst of speed that seemed beyond 
the abilities of blood and bone. The man behind 
thought he heard those long teeth pop as they 
caught the rump of a scurrying mare; surely he 
heard the stallion s scream of rage as, after 
nipping mare after mare, running to and fro 
behind them, he found that they had opened 
their hearts to the last limit and could go no 
faster. They could not do it and the rider 
behind was crawling up, jump for jump, gaining 
a yard, losing a foot, gaining again, steadily, 
relentlessly. 

VB did not know that Kelly, the horse buyer, 
and one of Dick Worth s riders had given the 
outlaws a long, tedious race that morning as they 
were coming in from the dry country to the 
west for water and better feed. He did not 
know that the band had been filling their bellies 
with great quantities of water, crowding them 
still more with grasses, until there was no room 
left for the working of lungs, for the stretching 
of taxed muscles. 

He saw only the one fact : that he was gaining 
on the Captain. He did not stop even to con 
sider the obvious ending of such a chase. He 



PURSUIT 113 

might scatter the band, but what of it? When 
the last hope had been cast the Captain would 
strike out alone, would turn all the energy that 
now went to driving his mares to making good 
his own escape, and then there would be no more 
race just a widening of a breach that could not 
be closed. 

But VB did not think of anything beyond the 
next stride. His mind was possessed with the 
idea that every leap of the laboring beast under 
him must bring him closer to the huddle of 
frantic horses, nearer to the flying hindquarters 
of the jet leader who tried so hard to make his 
authority override circumstance. 

The slashing of the quirt became more vicious. 
VB strained farther forward. His lips were 
parted, his eyes strained open with excitement, 
and the tears started by that rushing streamed 
over his cheeks. 

"E-e-eyah!" he shrieked. 

The buckskin mare found a hole. Her hind 
legs went into the air, sticking toward the sky 
above that thundering clump of tossing, rushing 
bodies with its fringes of fluttering hair. Her 
legs seemed to poise a moment; then they went 
down slowly. The Captain leaped her prostrate 
body, to sink his teeth into the flank of a sorrel 
that lagged half a length behind the others. 

VB passed so near the buckskin as she gained 
her faltering feet that he could have slashed her 
with his quirt. Yet he had no eyes for her, had 

8 



ii4 I CONQUERED" 

no heed for any of the mares. He was playing 
for the bigger game. 

The sorrel quit, unable to respond to that 
punishment, fearful of her master. She angled 
off to the right, to be rid of him, and disappeared 
through a clump of trees. The stallion shrilled 
his anger and disgust, slowing his gallop a half- 
dozen jumps as though he wanted to follow and 
punish her cruelly. 

Then he glanced backward, threw his nose 
in the air and, stretching to his own tremendous 
speed again, stormed on. 

The huddle of mares became less compact, 
seemed to lose also its unity of purpose. The 
Captain had more to do. His trips from flank 
to flank of the band were longer. By the time 
he had spurred the gray at the left back into 
the lead the brown three-year-old on the other 
wing was a loiterer by a length. Then, when 
she was sent ahead, the gray was lagging again. 
And another by her side, perhaps. 

"E-e-eyah!" 

VB s throat was raw from the screaming, but 
he did not know it no more than he knew that 
his hat was gone or that his nerves still yearned 
for their stinging stimulant. 

The cry, coming again and again, worried the 
Captain. Each time it crackled from VB s lips 
the black nose was flung high and an eye which 
glared orange hate even at that distance rolled 
back to watch this yelling pursuer. 



PURSUIT 115 

VB saw, and began to shout words at the ani 
mal, to cry his challenge, to curse. 

The galloping gray quit, without an attempt 
to rally. The Captain brought to bear a terrific 
punishment, dropping back to within thirty 
yards of the man who pressed him, but it was 
useless, for she was spent. The water and 
luscious grass in her dammed up the reservoirs 
of her vitality, would not let her respond. When 
the stallion gave her up and tore on after the 
others she dropped even her floundering gallop, 
and as VB raced past her he heard the breath 
sob down her throat. 

On and across they tore, dropping into sags of 
the ridge, climbing sharp little pitches, swinging 
now to the right and bending back to the left 
again in a sweeping curve. The uneven galloping 
of the horse under him, the gulps for breath the 
pony made as the footing fooled him and he 
jolted sharply, the shiftings and duckings and 
quick turnings as they stormed through groups 
of trees, the rattle of brush as it smote his boot 
toes and stirrups were all unheeded by VB. 

Once his shoulder met a tough cedar bough, 
and the blow wrenched it from its trunk. His 
face w r as whipped to rawness by smaller branches, 
and one knee throbbed dully where it had skimmed 
a bowlder as they shot past. But he saw only 
that floundering band ahead. 

The buckskin was gone, the sorrel, the gray; 
next, two mares quit together, and the Captain, 



n6 "_I CONQUERED" 

seeing them go, did not slacken his speed, did not 
even scream his rage. Only four remained, and 
he gambled on them as against the slight chance 
of recovering any of those others ; for that scream 
ing rider was closing in on him all the time. 

Oh, water and grass! How necessary both are 
to life, but how dangerous at a time like this! 
Pop-pop! The teeth closed on those running 
hips. The vainness of it all! They could go no 
faster. They had tried first from instinct, then 
from willingness; now they tried from fear as 
their lord tortured them. But though the will 
was there, the ability could not come, not even 
when the Captain pushed through them, and in 
a desperate maneuver set the pace, showing them 
his fine heels and clean limbs, demonstrating how 
easy it was to go on and on and draw away from 
that rider who tugged at his muffler that wind 
might find and cool his throat, burning now from 
unalloyed hope. 

And so VB, the newest horse runner on the 
range, scattered the Captain s band, accomplish 
ing all that the best of the men who rode that 
country had ever been able to boast. 

The stallion tried once more to rally his mates 
into escape, but their hearts were bursting, their 
lungs clogged. They could do no more. 

Then away he went alone, head high and turning 
from side to side, mane flaunting, tail trailing grace 
fully behind him, beauty in every regal line and 
curve, majestic superiority in each stride he took. 



PURSUIT 117 

He raced off into the country that stretched 
eastward, the loser for the time of one set of con 
quests but free free to go on and make himself 
more high, more powerful, more a thing to be 
emulated even by man. 

He ran lightly, evenly, without effort, and the 
gap between him and the rider behind, narrowed 
by such tremendous exertion from that lathered 
pony, widened with scarce an added effort. 

But VB went on, driving his reeking pony merci 
lessly. He had ceased yelling now. His face was 
set; blood that had been whipped into it by his 
frenzy, by the rushing of the wind, by the smiting 
of branches, left the skin. It became white, and 
from that visage two eyes glowed abnormally 
brilliant. For the Captain was taking off the 
ridge where it bent and struck into the north, was 
plunging down over the pitch into the shadows. 
He was going his best, in long, keen strides that 
would carry him to the bottom with a momentum 
so tremendous that on the flat he would be run 
ning himself into a blur. And VB s face was 
colorless, with eyes brilliant, because he knew 
that along the bottom of the drop ran the 
new drift fence that Bob Thorpe s men were 
erecting. 

He began to plead with his pony, to talk to 
him childishly, to beg him to keep his feet, to coax 
him to last, to pray him to follow and in con 
trol of himself, and on time! As they dropped 
off the ridge, down through the sliding shale and 



n8 "_I CONQUERED" 

scattered brush, VB s right hand, upraised to 
keep his balance, held the loop of his rope, and 
the other, flung behind the cantle of his saddle, 
grasped the coils of the sturdy hemp. 

Oh, Captain, your speed was against you ! You 
took off that ridge with those ground-covering 
leaps, limbs flying, heart set on reaching the 
bottom with a swirl of speed that would dis 
hearten your follower. But you did not reckon on 
an obstruction, on the thing your eyes encountered 
when halfway down that height and going with 
all the power within you. Those fresh posts and 
the wires strung between them ! A fence ! Men 
had invaded your territory with their barriers, and 
at such a time! You knew, too, that there was 
no jumping it; they had set the posts so far up 
on the pitch that no take-off had been left. 

So the Captain tried to stop. With haunches 
far under him, front feet straight before, belly 
scrubbing the brush, he battled to overcome the 
awful impetus his body had received up above. 
Sprawling, sliding, feet shooting in any direction 
as the footing gave, he struggled to stop his 
progress. It was no simple matter; indeed, 
checking that flight was far more difficult than 
the attaining of that speed. In the midst of roll 
ing, bounding stones, sliding dust, breaking brush, 
the great stallion gradually slowed his going. Slow 
and more slowly he went on toward the bottom; 
almost stopped, but still was unable to bring his 
muscles into play for a dash to right or left 



PURSUIT 119 

On behind, pony floundering in the wake of the 
Captain, rode VB, right hand high, snapping 
back and forth to hold him erect, rope dangling 
from it crazily. He breathed through his mouth, 
and at every exhalation his vocal chords vibrated. 

Perhaps even then the Captain might have 
won. The odds of the game were all against 
him, it is true, for breaking down the pitch as 
he did, it required longer for him to reach the 
bottom in possession of his equilibrium than it 
did the slower-moving horse that bore VB. It 
would have been a tight squeeze for the horse, 
but the man was in a poor position to cast his 
loop with any degree of accuracy. 

But a flat sliding stone discounted all other 
factors. Nothing else mattered. The Captain 
came to a stop, eyes wild, ears back. With a 
slow-starting, mighty lunge, he made as though 
to turn and race down along the line of fence 
before VB could get within striking distance. 
The great muscles contracted, his ragged hoofs 
sought a hold. The hind legs straightened, that 
mighty force bore on his footing and the stone 
slipped! The Captain was outlucked. 

His hind legs shot backward, staggering him. 
His hindquarters slipped downhill, throwing his 
head up to confront VB. His nostrils flared, 
that orange hate in his eyes met the glow from 
his pursuer s, who came down upon him only 
half a dozen lengths away! 



CHAPTER X 

CAPTURE 

IT does not take a horse that is bearing a rider 
downhill an appreciable length of time to take 
one more stride. Gravity does the work. The 
horse jerks his fore legs from under his body and 
then shoots them out again for fresh hold to keep 
his downward progress within reason. 

VB s pony went down the drop with much 
more rapidity than safety, in short, jerky, stiff- 
legged plunges, hindquarters scrooged far under 
his body; alert, watching his footing, grunting 
in his care not to take too great risks. 

When the Captain, fooled by false footing, 
was whirled about to face the down-coming rider, 
the pony s fore feet had just drawn themselves 
out of the way to let his body farther down the 
slope. And when the sturdy legs again shot out 
to strike rock and keep horse and VB upright, 
the black stallion had started to wheel. But in 
the split second which intervened between the 
beginning and ending of that floundering jump, 
eyes met eyes. The eyes of a man met the eyes 
of a beast, and heart read heart. The eyes of a 
man who had frittered his life, who had flaunted 
his heritage of strength in body and bone until 
he had become a weakling, a cringing, whining 



120 



CAPTURE 121 

center of abnormal nervous activities, fearing 
himself, met the eyes of a beast that knew him 
self to be a paragon of his kind, the final achieve 
ment of his strain, a commanding force that had 
never been curbed, that had defied alike his 
own kingdom and the race from which had sprung 
the being now confronting him. 

The eyes of him who had been a weakling met 
the eyes of that which had been superstrong 
and without a waver; they held, they penetrated, 
and, suddenly born from the purposeless life of 
Danny Lenox, flamed Young VB s soul. All the 
emulation, all the lust this beast before him had 
roused in his heart, became amalgamated with 
that part of him which subtly strove to drag 
him away from debauchery, and upon those 
blending elements of strength was set the lasting 
stamp of his individuality. 

His purpose flamed in his eyes and its light 
was so great that the horse read, and, reading, 
set his ears forward and screamed not so 
much a scream of anger as of wondering terror. 
For the beast caught the significance of that 
splendid determination which made for conquest 
with a power equal to his own strength, which 
was making for escape. The telepathic com 
munication from the one to the other was the 
same force that sends a jungle king into antics 
at the pleasure of his trainer the language that 
transcends species! 

The pony s hoofs dug shale once more, and the 



122 "_I CONQUERED" 

upraised right arm whipped about the tousled 
head. The rope swished angrily as it slashed 
the air. Once it circled and the Captain 
jumped, lunging off to the left. Twice it cut its 
disk and the stallion s quivering flanks gathered 
for a second leap. It writhed; it stretched out 
waveringly, seekingly, feelingly as though uncer 
tain, almost blindly, but swiftly so swiftly ! 
The loop flattened and spread and undulated, 
drawing the long stretch of hemp after it teas- 
ingly. It stopped, as though suddenly tired. 
It poised with uncanny deliberation. Then, as 
gently as a maiden s sigh, it settled settled 
drooped and the Captain s nose, reaching out 
for liberty, to be free of this man whose eyes 
flamed a determination so stanch that it went 
down to his beast heart, thrust itself plumb 
through the middle. 

The hoarse rip of the hard-twist coming through 
its hondu, the whistle of breath from the man s 
tight teeth, the rattle of stone on stone; then the 
squeal from the stallion as for the first time in 
his life a bond tightened on him! 

He shook his head angrily, and even as he 
leaped a third time back toward his free hills 
one forefoot was raised to strike from him the 
snaring strand. The pawing hoof did not reach 
its mark, did not find the thin, lithe thing which 
throttled down on him, for the Captain s momen 
tum carried him to the end of the rope. 

They put the strain on the hemp, both going 



CAPTURE 123 

away, those horses. VB struggled with his 
mount to have him ready for the shock, but 
before he could bring about a full stop that 
shock arrived. It seemed as though it would 
tear the horn from the saddle. The pony, 
sturdy little beast, was yanked to his knees and 
swung half about, and VB recovered himself only 
by grabbing the saddle fork. 

The black stallion again faced the man 
faced him because his heels had been cracked in 
a semicircle through the air by the force of that 
burning thing about his neck. For ten long 
seconds the Captain stood braced against the 
rope, moving his head slowly from side to side 
for all the world as a refractory, gentled colt 
might do, with as much display of fight as would 
be shown by a mule that dissented at the idea 
of being led across a ditch. He just stood there 
stupidly, twisting his head. 

The thick mane rumpled up under the tight 
ening rope, some of the drenched hair of the neck 
was pulled out as the hemp rolled upward, 
drawing closer, shutting down and down. The 
depression in the flesh grew deeper. One hind 
foot lost its hold in the shale and shot out; the 
Captain lifted it and moved it forward again 
slowly, cautiously, for fresh, steady straining. 

Then it came. The windpipe closed; he 
coughed, and like the sudden fury of a moun 
tain thunderstorm the Captain turned loose his 
giant forces. The thing had jerked him back in 



124. "I CONQUERED" 

his rush toward freedom. It held him where he 
did not want to be held! And it choked! 

Forefeet clawing, rearing to his hind legs with 
a quivering strength of lift that dragged the 
bracing pony through the shale, the great, black 
horse-regal screamed and coughed his rage and 
beat upon that vibrating strand which made him 
prisoner that web that fragile thing ! 

Again and again he struck it, but it only 
danced only danced, and tightened its clutch 
on his throat! He reached for it with his long 
teeth and clamped them on it, but the thing 
would not yield. He settled to all fours again, 
threw his head from side to side, and strove 
to move backward with a frenzied floundering 
that sent the pebbles rattling yards about him. 

It was a noble effort. Into the attempt to 
drag away from that anchorage the Captain 
put his very spirit. He struggled and choked 
and strained. And all the time that man sat 
there on his horse, tense, watching silently, mov 
ing his free hand slightly to and fro, as though 
beating time to music. His lips were parted, 
his face still blanched. And in his eyes glowed 
that purpose which knows no defeat! 

System departed. Like a hot blast wickedness 
came. Teeth bared, ears flat, with sounds like 
an angered child s ranting coming from his 
throat, the stallion charged his man enemy just 
as he had charged the powerful Percheron who 
had come to challenge him a month ago. The 



CAPTURE 125 

saddle horse, seeing it, avoided the brunt of the 
first blind rush, taking the Captain s shoulder 
on his rump as the black hurtler went past, 
striking thin air. 

VB felt the Captain s breath, saw from close 
up the lurid flame in his eyes, sensed the power 
of those teeth, the sledge-hammer force behind 
those untrimmed hoofs. And he came alive, 
the blood shooting close under his skin again and 
making the gray face bronze, then deeper than 
bronze. His eyes puffed under the stress of that 
emotion, and he felt a primitive desire to growl 
as the Captain whirled and came again. It 
was man to beast, and somewhere down yonder 
through the generations a dead racial memory 
came back and Young VB, girded for the conflict, 
ached to have his forest foe in reach, to have 
the fight run high, to have his chance to dare 
and do in fleshly struggle! 

It was not long in coming. The near hoof, strik 
ing down to crush his chest, fell short, and the hair 
of VB s chap leg went ripping from the leather, 
while along his thigh crept a dull, spreading ache. 

He did not notice that, though, for he was 
raised in his stirrups, right hand lifted high, its 
fingers clutched about the lash of his loaded quirt. 
He felt the breath again, hot, wet, and a splatter 
of froth from the flapping lips struck his cheek. 
Then the right hand came down with a snap and 
a jerk, with all the vigor of muscular force that 
VB could summon. 



126 "__I CONQUERED" 

His eye had been good, his judgment true. 
The Captain s teeth did not sink into his flesh, 
for the quirt-butt, a leaden slug, crunched on 
the horse s skull, right between the ears! 

The fury of motion departed, like the going 
of a cyclone. The Captain dropped to all fours 
and hung his head, staggered a half-dozen short 
paces drunkenly, and then sighed deeply 

He reached the end of the rope. It came tight 
again, and with the tightening the battle ! 
Thrice more he charged the man with all the 
hate his wild heart could summon, but not once 
did those dreadful teeth find that which they 
sought. Again the front hoof met its mark and 
racked the flesh of VB s leg, but that did not 
matter. He could stand that punishment, for he 
was winning! He was countering the stallion s 
efforts, which made the contest an even break; 
and his rope was on and he had dealt one telling 
blow with his quirt. Two points! And the boy 
screamed his triumph as the missile he swung 
landed again, on the soft nose this time, the nose 
so wrinkled with hateful desire and the Cap 
tain swung off to one side from the stinging force 
of it. 

Not in delight at punishment was that cry. 
The blow on the skull, the slug at the nose stabbed 
VB to his tenderest depths. But he knew it 
must be so, and his shout was a shout of conquest 
of the first man asserting primal authority, 
of the last man coming into his own! 



CAPTURE 127 

The dust they stirred rose stiflingly. Down 
there under the hill no moving breath of air 
would carry it off. The pony under VB grunted 
and strained, but was jerked sharply about by 
the rushes of the heavier stallion, heavier and 
built of things above mere flesh and bone and 
tendon. The Captain s belly dripped water; 
VB s face was glossy with it, his hair plastered 
down to brow and temple. 

The three became tired. In desperation the 
Captain dropped the fight, turned to run, plunged 
out as though to part the strands. VB s heart 
leaped as his faith in the rope faltered but it 
held, and the stallion, pulled about, lost his 
footing, floundered, stumbled, went down, and 
rolled into the shale, feet threshing the air. 

It was an opening the widest VB had had, 
wider than he could have hoped for, and he 
rushed in, stabbing his horse shamelessly with 
spurs and babbling witlessly as he strove to make 
slack in the rope. The slack came. Then the 
quick jerk of the wrist the trick he had per 
fected back there in Jed s corral and a poten 
tial half -hitch traveled down the rope. 

The Captain floundered to get his feet under 
him, and the loop in the rope dissolved. Again 
the wrist twitch, again the shooting loop and - 

Scotched ! screamed Young VB. " Scotched ! 
You re my property!" 

Scotched! The rope had found its hold about 
the off hind ankle of the soiled stallion, and there 



128 "__I CONQUERED" 

it clung in a tight, relentless grasp. The rope 
from neck to limb was so short that it kept the 
foot clear of the ground, crippling the Captain, 
and as the great horse floundered to his feet VB 
had him powerless. The stallion stood dazed, 
looking down at the thing which would not let 
him kick, which would not let him step. 

Then he sprang forward, and when the rope 
came tight he was upended, a shoulder plowing 
the shale. 

" It s no use ! " the man cried, his voice crackling 
in excitement. "I ve got you right right - 
right!" 

But the Captain would not quit. He tried 
even then to rise to his hind legs and make 
assatilt, but the effort only sent him falling back 
ward, squealing and left him on his side, 
moaning for his gone liberty. 

For he knew. He knew that his freedom was 
gone, even as he made his last floundering, 
piteous endeavors. He got up and tried to run, 
but every series of awkward moves only sent his 
black body down into the dust and dirt, and at 
last he rested there, head up, defiance still in his 
eyes, but legs cramped under him. 

And then VB wanted to cry. He went through 
all the sensations the abrupt drop of spirits, 
the swelling in the throat, the tickling in the 
nostrils. 

"Oh, Captain!" he moaned. "Captain, don t 
you see I wouldn t harm you? Only you had 



CAPTURE 129 

to be mine! I had to get bigger than you were, 
Captain for my own salvation. It was the 
only way, boy; it was the only way!" 

And he sat there for a long time, his eyes 
without the light of triumph, on his captive. 

His heart-beats quickened, a new warmth 
commenced to steal through his veins, a new 
faith in self welled up from his innermost depths, 
making his pulses sharp and hard, making his 
muscles swell, sending his spirit up and up. 

He had fought his first big fight and he had 
won! 

Blood began to drip from the stallion s nose. 

"It s where I struck you!" whispered VB, the 
triumph all gone again, solicitation and a vast 
love possessing him. "It s where I struck you, 
Captain. Oh, it hurts me, too but it must be 
so, because things are as they are. There will 
be more hurts, boy, before we re through. But 
it must be!" 

His voice gritted on the last. 

Sounds from behind roused VB, and he looked 
around. 

The sunlight was going even from the ridge 
up there, and the whole land was in shadow. He 
was a long way from the ranch with this trophy 
his, but still ready to do battle at the end of 
his rope. 

"Got one?" a man cried, coming up, and VB 
recognized him as one of the trio of fence builders, 
riding back to their camp. 

9 



i 3 o "_I CONQUERED" 

"Yes one," muttered VB, and turned to 
look at the Captain. 

Then the man cried: "You ve got th Cap 
tain!" 

"It s the Captain," said VB unsteadily, as 
though too much breath were in his lungs. He s 
mine you know mine ! 

The others looked at him in silent awe. 



CHAPTER XI 

A LETTER AND A NARRATIVE 

JED A VERY had been away from Young VB 
almost two weeks, and he had grown im 
patient in the interval. So he pushed his bay 
pony up the trail from Ranger, putting the miles 
behind him as quickly as possible. The little 
man had fretted over every step of the journey 
homeward, and from Colt on into the hills it 
was a conscious effort that kept him from abus 
ing his horse by overtravel. 

"If he should have gone an busted over while 
I was away I d I d never forgive myself 
lettin that boy go to th bad just for a dinky 
claim!" 

It was the thousandth time he had made the 
declaration, and as he spoke the words a thank 
fulness rose in his heart because of what he had 
not heard in Ranger. He knew that VB had kept 
away from town. Surely that was a comfort, an 
assurance, a justification for his faith that was 
firm even under the growling. 

Still, there might have been a wanderer with 
a bottle 

And as he came in sight of his own buildings 
Jed put the pony to a gallop for the first time 
during that long journey. Smoke rose from the 



132 "_I CONQUERED" 

chimney, the door stood open, an atmosphere of 
habitation was about the place, and that proved 
something. He crowded his horse close against 
the gate, leaned low, unfastened the hasp, and 
rode on through. 

"Oh, VB!" he called, and from the cabin came 
an answering hail, a scraping of chair legs, and 
the young fellow appeared in the doorway. 

"How s th " 

Jed did not finish the question then or 
ever. His eagerness for the meeting, the light 
of anticipation that had been in his face, dis 
appeared. He reined up his horse with a stout 
jerk, and for a long moment sat there motion 
less, eyes on the round corral. Then his shoulders 
slacked forward and he raised a hand to scratch 
his chin in bewilderment. 

For yonder, his nose resting on one of the gate 
bars, watching the newcomer, safe in the inclo- 
sure, alive, just as though he belonged there, 
stood the Captain! 

After that motionless moment Jed turned his 
eyes back to Young VB, and stared blankly, 
almost witlessly. Then he raised a limp hand 
and half pointed toward the corral, while his lips 
formed a soundless question. 

VB stepped from the doorway and walked 
toward Jed, smiling. 

"Yes," he said with soft pride, as though 
telling of a sacred thing, "the Captain is there 
in our corral." 



A LETTER AND A NARRATIVE 133 

Jed drew a great breath. 

"Did you do it and alone?" 

"Well, there wasn t any one else about," VB 
replied modestly. 

Again Jed s chest heaved. 

"Well, I ma" 

He ended in inarticulate distress, searching for 
a proper expletive, mouth open and ready, should 
he find one. Then he was off his horse, both 
hands on the boy s shoulders, looking into the 
eyes that met his so steadily. 

"You done it, Young VB!" he cried brokenly. 
"You done it! Oh, I m proud of you! Your 
old adopted daddy sure is! You done it all by 
yourself, an it s somethin that nobody has 
ever been able to do before!" 

Then they both laughed aloud, eyes still 
clinging. 

"Come over and get acquainted," suggested 
VB. "He s waiting for us." 

They started for the corral, Jed s eyes, now 
flaming as they took in the detail of that won 
derful creature, already seen by him countless 
times, but now for the first time unfree. 

The stallion watched them come, moving his 
feet up and down uneasily and peering at them 
between the bars. VB reached for the gate 
fastening, and the horse was away across the 
corral, snorting, head up, as though fearful. 

"Why, Captain!" the boy cried. "What 
ails you?" 



i 3 4 " I CONQUERED" 

"What ails him?" cried Jed. "Man alive, 
I d expect to see him tryin to tear our hearts 
out!" 

"Oh, but he s like a woman!" VB said softly, 
watching the horse as he swung the gate open. 

They stepped inside, Jed with caution. VB 
walked straight across to the horse and laid his 
hand on the splendid curve of the rump. 

"Well, I m a" Again Jed could find no 
proper word to express his astonishment. He 
simply took off his hat and swung it in one hand, 
like an embarrassed schoolgirl. 

"Come over and meet the boss, Captain," 
VB laughed, drawing the black head around by 
its heavy forelock. 

And the Captain came unexpectedly. The 
boy realized the danger with the first plunge and 
threw his arms about the animal s neck, crying 
to him to be still. And Jed realized, too. He 
slipped outside, putting bars between himself and 
those savage teeth which reached out for his body. 

Foiled, the stallion halted. 

"Captain," exclaimed VB, "what ails you?" 

"To be sure, nothin ails him," said Jed sagely. 
"You re his master; you own him, body and soul; 
but you ain t drove th hate for men out of his 
heart. He seems to love you but not others 
yes" 

His voice died out as he watched the black 
beast make love to the tall young chap who 
scolded into his dainty ear. The soft, thin lips 



A LETTER AND A NARRATIVE 135 

plucked at VB s clothing, nuzzling about him as 
he stood with arms clasped around the glossy 
neck. The great cheek rubbed against the boy s 
side until it pushed him from his tracks, though 
he strained playfully against the pressure. Such 
was the fierceness of that horse s allegiance. His 
nostrils fluttered, but no sound came from them: 
the beast whisperings of affection. All the time 
VB scolded softly, as a father might banter with 
a child. And when the boy looked up a great 
pride was in his face, and Jed understood. 

"That s right, Young VB be proud of it! 
Be proud that he s yours; be proud that he s 
yours, an yours only. Keep him that way; to 
be sure, an you ve earned it!" 

Then he stepped close to the bars and gazed 
at the animal with the critical look of a con 
noisseur. 

"Not a hair that ain t black," he muttered. 
"Black from ankle to ear; hoofs almost black, 
black in th nostrils. Black horses generally 
have brown eyes, but you can t even tell where 
th pupil is in his! 

"Say, VB, he makes th ace of spades look 
like new snow, don t he?" 

"He does that!" cried VB, and putting his 
hands on the animal s back, he leaped lightly 
up, sitting sidewise on the broad hips and playing 
with the heavy tail. 

"VB, I m a Lord, a thousand dollars for 
a new oath!" 



i 3 6 "_ I CONQUERED" 

At VB s suggestion they started back to the 
cabin. 

"Why, boy, you re limpin !" the old man 
exclaimed. "An in both legs!" He stopped 
and looked the young fellow over from hat to 
heel. "One side of your face s all skinned. 
Looks as though your left hand d all been smashed 
up, it s that swelled. You move like your back 
hurt, too like sin. VB?" 

The boy stopped and looked down at the 
ground. Then his eyes met those of the old 
rancher, and Jed Avery understood he had 
seen the bond between man and horse; he realized 
what must have transpired between them. 

And he knew the love that men can have for 
animals, something which, if you have never felt 
it, is far beyond comprehension. So he asked 
just this question : How long ? 

And VB answered: "Six days from dawn 
till dark. One to get a halter on him, another 
to get my hand on his head; three days in the 
Scotch hobble, and the last to ride him like 
a hand-raised colt." 

Jed replaced his hat, pulling it low to hide his 
eyes. 

"Ain t I proud to be your daddy?" he whis 
pered. 

An overwhelming pride a pride raised to 
the nth degree, of the sort that is above the 
understanding of most men was in the tone 
timbre of the question. 



A LETTER AND A NARRATIVE 137 

They went on into the house. 

"Jed," VB said, as though he had waited to 
broach something of great import, "I ve written 
a letter this morning, and I want to read it to 
you, just to see how it sounds out loud." 

He sat down in a chair and drew sheets of small 
tablet paper toward him. 

Jed, without answer, leaned against the table 
and waited. VB read: 

"Mv DEAR FATHER: 

"I am writing merely to say that I know you were 
right and I was wrong. 

"I am in a new life, where men do big, real things 
which justify their own existence. I am finding my 
self. I am getting that perspective which lets me 
see just how right you were and how wrong I was. 

"Since coming here I have done something real. I 
have captured and made mine the wildest horse that 
ever ran these hills. I am frankly proud of it. I may 
live to do things of more obvious greatness, but that 
will be because men have had their sense of values 
warped. For rne, this attainment is a true triumph. 

"I am now in the process of taming another beast, 
more savage than the one I have mastered, and possess 
ing none of his noble qualities. It is a beast not of 
the sort we can grapple with, though we can see it in 
men. It is giving me a hard battle, but try to believe 
that my efforts are sincere and, though it may take 
my whole lifetime, I am bound to win in the end. 

"This letter will be mailed in Kansas City by a 
friend. I am many days travel from that point. 
When I am sure of the other victory I shall let you 
know where I am. 

"Your affectionate son," 



i 3 8 " I CONQUERED" 

He tossed the sheets back to the table top. 

" I m going to get it over to Ant Creek and let 
some of the boys take it to the river when they 
go with beef," he explained. "Now, how does 
it sound?" 

"Fine, VB, fine!" Jed muttered, rubbing one 
cheek. "To be sure, it ain t so much what you 
say as th way you say it makin a party feel 
as though you meant it from th bottom of your 
feet to th tip of th longest hair on your head!" 

"Well, Jed, I do mean it just that way. That 
horse out there he he stands for so much 
now. He stands for everything I have n t been, 
and for all that I want to be. He ran free as the 
birds, but it could n t always be so. He had to 
succumb, had to give up that sort of liberty. 

"I took his power from him, made him my 
own, made him my servant. Yet it did n t 
scathe his spirit. It has changed all that bitter 
ness into love, all that wasted energy into doing 
something useful. I didn t break him, Jed; I 
converted him. Understand?" 

I do, VB ; but we won t convert this here other 
beast. We ll bust him wide open, won t we? 
Break him, body an spirit!" 

The boy smiled wanly. 

"That s what we re trying to do." 

He pointed to the candle in its daubed bottle. 

"Just to keep the light burning, Jed just 
to keep its light fighting back the darkness. The 
little flame of that candle breaks the power of 



A LETTER AND A NARRATIVE 139 

the black thing which would shut it in like a 
heart being good and true in spite of the rotten 
body in which it beats. And when my body 
commences to want the old things to want 
them, oh, so badly I just think of this little 
candle here, calm and quiet and steady, stick 
ing out of what was once a cesspool, a poison 
pot, and making a place in the night where men 
can see." 

While a hundred could have been counted 
slowly they remained motionless, quiet, not a 
sound breaking the silence. 

Then Jed began talking in a half-tone: 

"I know, Young VB; I know. You ve got 
time now to light it and nurse th flame up so s 
it won t need watchin an not miss things that 
go by in th dark. Some of us puts it off too 
long like a man I know now. I did n t 
know him then when it happened. He was 
wanderin around in a night that never turned to 
day, thinkin he knowed where he was goin , 
but all th time just bein fooled by th dark. 

"And there was a girl back in Kansas. He 
started after her, but it was so dark he could n t 
find th way, an when he did 

"Some folks is fools enough to say women 
don t die of broken hearts. But well, when a 
feller knows some things he wants to go tell em 
to men who don t know; to help em to under 
stand, if he can ; to give em a hand if they do see 
but can t find their way out " 



i 4 o "__I CONQUERED" 

He stopped, staring at the floor. VB had no 
cause to search for identities. 

From the corral came a shrill, prolonged neigh 
ing. VB arose and laid a hand gently on Jed s 
bowed shoulder. 

"That s the Captain," he said solemnly; "and 
he calls me when he s thirsty." 

While he was gone Jed remained as he had 
been left, staring at the floor. 



CHAPTER XII 

WOMAN WANTS 

GAIL THORPE rose from the piano in the 
big ranch house of the S Bar S, rearranged 
the mountain flowers that filled a vase on a 
tabouret, then knocked slowly, firmly, command- 
ingly, on a door that led from the living room. 

"Well, I don t want you; but I s pose you 
might as well come in and get it off your mind!" 

The voice from the other side spoke in feigned 
annoyance. It continued to grumble until a 
lithe figure, topped by a mass of hair like pulled 
sunshine, flung itself at him, twining warm arms 
about his neck and kissing the words from the 
lips of big Bob Thorpe as he sat before his desk 
in the room that served as the ranch office. 

"Will you ever say it again that you don t 
want me?" she demanded. 

"No but merely because I m intimidated 
into promising," he answered. His big arms went 
tight about the slender body and he pulled his 
daughter up on his lap. 

A silence, while she fussed with his necktie. 
Her blue eyes looked into his gray ones a moment 
as though absently, then back to the necktie. 
Her fingers fell idle; her head snuggled against 
his neck. Bob Thorpe laughed loud and long. 

141 



i 4 2 "_I CONQUERED" 

"Well, what is it this morning?" he asked 
between chuckles. 

The girl sat up suddenly, pushed back the hair 
that defied fastenings, and tapped a stretched 
palm with the stiff forefinger of the other hand. 

"I m not a Western girl," she declared delib 
erately; and then, as the brown face before her 
clouded, hastened: "Oh, I m not wanting to go 
away! I mean, I m not truly a Western girl, 
but I want to be. I want to fit better. 

"When we decided that I should graduate and 
come back here with my mommy and daddy for 
the rest of my life, I decided. There was nothing 
halfway about it. Some of the other girls 
thought it awful; but I don t see the attraction 
in their way of living. 

"When I was a little girl I was a sort of torn- 
cow-boy. I could do things as well as any of the 
boys I ever knew could do them. But after 
ten years, mostly away in the East, where girls 
are like plants, I ve lost it all. Now I want to 
get it back." 

"Well, go to it!" 

"Wait! I want to start well high up. I 
want to have the best that there is to have. 
I want a horse ! " 

"Horse? Bless me, bambino, there are fifty 
broken horses running in the back pasture now, 
besides what the boys have on the ride. Take 
your pick!" 

"Oh, I know!" she said with gentle scoffing. 



WOMAN WANTS 143 

"That sort of a horse just cow-ponies. I love 
em, but I guess well 

"You ve been educated away from em, you 
mei n?" he chuckled. 

"Well, whatever it is I want something 
better. I, as a daughter of the biggest, best man 
in Colorado, want to ride the best animal that 
ever felt a cinch." 

"Well?" 

"And I want to have him now, so I can get 
used to him this fall and look forward to coming 
back to him in the spring." 

Bob Thorpe took both her hands in one of his. 

"And if a thing like that will make my bambino 
happy, I guess she ll have it." 

The girl kissed him and held her cheek close 
against his for a breath. 

"When I go to Denver for the stock show I ll 
pick the best blue ribbon 

"Denver!" she exclaimed indignantly, sitting 
straight and tossing her head. "I want a real 
horse a horse bred and raised in these moun 
tains a horse I can trust. None of your blue- 
blooded stock. They re like the girls I went to 
college with!" 

Bob Thorpe let his laughter roll out. 

""Well, what do you expect to find around here? 
Have you seen anything you like?" 

She pulled her hands from his grasp and 
stretched his mouth out of shape with her little 
fingers until he squirmed. 



144 "I CONQUERED" 

"No, I haven t seen him; but I ve heard the 
cowboys talking. Over at Mr. Avery s ranch 
they ve caught a black horse " 

Bob Thorpe set her suddenly up on the arm 
of his chair and shook her soundly. 

"Look here, young lady!" he exclaimed. 
"You re dreaming! I know what horse you re 
talking about. He s a wild devil that has run 
these hills for years. I heard he d been caught. 
Get the notion of having him out of your head. 
I ve never seen him but once, and then he was 
away off; but I ve heard tales of him. Why - 

"Nonsense! In the first place, he couldn t 
be broken to ride. Men are n t made big enough 
to break the spirit of a devil like that! They re 
bigger than humans. So we can end this d:3- 
cussion in peace. It s impossible!" 

"All right," Gail said sweetly. "I just let 
you go on and get yourself into a corner. You 
don t know what you re talking about. He has 
been ridden. So there! I want him!" 

He thrust her to one side, rose, and com 
menced to pace the room, gesticulating wildly. 
But it all came to the invariable end of such 
discussions, and twenty minutes later Gail Thorpe, 
her smoking, smiling dad at her side, piloted the 
big touring car down the road, bound for Jed 
Avery s ranch. 

Young VB sat on a box behind the cabin work 
ing with a boot-heel that insisted on running over. 



WOMAN WANTS 145 

He lifted the boot, held it before his face, and 
squinted one eye to sight the effect of his work 
then started at a cry from the road. 

The boot still in his hands, VB stopped squint 
ing to listen. Undoubtedly whoever it was 
wanted Jed; but Jed was away with the horse 
buyer, looking over his young stuff. So Young 
VB, boot in hand, its foot clad in a service- worn 
sock, made his uneven way around the house 
to make any necessary explanations. 

"That must be he!" 

The light, high voice of the girl gave the cry 
just as VB turned the corner and came in sight, 
and her hand, half extended to point toward 
the corral, pointed directly into the face of the 
young man. 

He did not hear what she had said, did not 
venture a greeting. He merely stood and stared 
at her, utterly without poise. In a crimson flash 
he realized that this was Gail Thorpe, that she 
was pretty, and that his bootless foot was covered 
by a sock that had given way before the stress 
of walking in high heels, allowing his great toe, 
with two of its lesser conspirators, to protrude. 
To his confusion, those toes seemed to be swelling 
and for the life of him he could make them do 
nothing but stand stiffly in the air almost at 
right angles with the foot. 

His breeding cried out for a retreat, for a leap 
into shelter; but his wits had lost all grace. 
He lifted the half -naked foot and carefully brushed 

10 



i 4 6 "_I CONQUERED" 

the dirt from the sock. Then, leaning a shoulder 
against the corner of the cabin, he drew the boot 
on. Stamping it to the ground to settle his foot 
into place, he said, "Good morning," weakly and 
devoid of heartiness. 

Bob Thorpe had not noticed this confusion, for 
his eyes were on the corral. But Gail, a peculiar 
twinkle in her eyes, had seen it all and with 
quick intuition knew that it was something more 
than the embarrassment of a cow-puncher and 
struggled to suppress her smiles. 

"Good afternoon," Thorpe corrected. "Jed 
here?" 

"No; he s riding," VB answered. 

The cattleman moved a pace to the left and 
tilted his head to see better the Captain, who 
stormed around and around the corral, raising 
a great dust. 

"We came over to look at a horse I heard was 
here this one, I guess. Is n t he the wild 
stallion?" 

"Used to be wild." 

He looks it yet. Watch him plunge ! Thorpe 
cried. 

"He s never seen an automobile before," VB 
explained, as the three moved nearer the corral. 

The horse was frightened. He quivered when 
he stood in one place, and the quivering always 
grew more violent until it ended in a plunge. 
He rose to his hind legs, head always toward 
the car, and pawed the air; then settled back and 



WOMAN WANTS 147 

ran to the far side of the inclosure, with eyes 
for nothing but that machine. 

They halted by the bars, Thorpe and his 
daughter standing close together, Young VB 
nearer the gate. The boy said something to the 
horse and laughed softly. 

Why, look, daddy," the girl cried, "he s 
beginning to calm down!" 

The Captain stopped his antics and, still 
trembling, moved gingerly to the bars. Twice 
he threw up his head, looked at the machine, and 
breathed loudly, and once a quick tremor ran 
through his fine limbs, but the terror was no 
longer on him. 

Bob Thorpe turned a slow gaze on VB. The 
girl stood with lips parted. A flush came under 
her fine skin and she clasped her hands at her 
breast. 

"Oh, daddy, what a horse!" she breathed. 

And Bob Thorpe echoed: "Lord, what a 
horse! Anybody tried to ride him?" he asked 
a moment later. 

"He gets work every day," VB answered. 

Work ? Don t tell me you work that animal ! 

The young chap nodded. "Yes; he works 
right along." 

The Captain snorted oudly and tore away in 
a proud circle of the corral, as though to flaunt 
his graces. 

"Oh, daddy, it took a man to break that 
animal!" the girl breathed. 



i 4 8 "_ I CONQUERED" 

The bronze of VB s face darkened, then paled. 
He turned a steady look on the sunny- haired 
woman, and the full thanks that swelled in his 
throat almost found words. He wanted to cry 
out to her, to tell her what such things meant; 
for she was of his sort, highly bred, capable of 
understanding. And he found himself thinking: 
"You are! You are! You re as I thought you 
must be!" 

Then he felt Thorpe s gaze and turned to meet 
it, a trifle guiltily. 

"Yours?" the man asked. 

"Mine." 

Thorpe turned back to the Captain. Gail 
drew a quick breath and turned away from him 
to the man. 

"I thought so when he commenced to quiet," 
muttered Thorpe. 

He looked then at his daughter and found her 
standing still, hands clasped, lips the least trifle 
parted, gazing at Young VB. 

Something in him urged a quick step forward. 
It was an alarm, something primal in the fathers 
of women. But Bob Thorpe put the notion 
aside as foolishness or tenderness and walked 
closer to the corral, chewing his cigar specula- 
tively. The stallion wrinkled his nose and 
dropped the ears flat, the orange glimmer coming 
into his eyes. 

"Don t like strangers, I see." 

"Not crazy about them," VB answered. 



WOMAN WANTS 149 

Thorpe walked off to the left, then came back. 
He removed his cigar and looked at Gail. She 
fussed with her rebellious hair and her face was 
flushed ; she no longer looked at the horse or 
at VB. He felt a curiosity about that flush. 

"Well, want to get rid of him?" 

Thorpe hooked his thumbs in his vest arm- 
holes and confronted VB. 

No answer. 

"What do you want for him?" 

The young fellow started. 

What ? " he said in surprise. I was thinking. 
I did n t catch your question." 

The fact was, he had heard, but had distrusted 
the sense. The idea of men offering money for 
the Captain had never occurred to him. 

"What do you want for him?" 

VB smiled. 

"What do I want for him?" he repeated. "I 
want feed and water for the rest of his life; 
shelter when he needs it; the will to treat him as 
he should be treated. And I guess that s about 
all." 

The other again removed his cigar, and his 
jaw dropped. A cow-puncher talking so! He 
could not believe it ; and the idea so confused him 
that he blundered right on with the bargaining. 
"Five hundred? Seven-fifty? No? Well, how 
much?" 

VB smiled again, just an indulgent smile 
prompted by the knowledge that he possessed a 



i5o "_I CONQUERED" 

thing beyond the power of even this man s wealth. 

"The Captain is not for sale," he said. Not 
to-day or ever. That s final. 

There was more talk, but all the kindly bluff- 
ness, all the desire instinctive in Bob Thorpe to 
give the other man an even break in the bargain, 
fell flat. This stranger, this thirty-five-dollar-a- 
month ranch hand, shed his offers as a tin roof 
sheds rain and with a self-possession characterized 
by unmistakable assurance. 

"Tell Jed I was over," the big man said as they 
gave up their errand and turned to go. "And" 
as he set a foot on the running board of his 
car- "any time you re our way drop in." 

"Yes, do!" added the girl, and her father could 
not check the impulse which made him turn 
halfway as though to shut her off. 



CHAPTER XIII 

VB FIGHTS 

JED returned that evening, worn by a hard 
day s riding. He was silent. VB, too, was 
quiet and they spoke little until the housework 
was finished and Jed had drawn off his boots 
preparatory to turning in. 

Then VB said : Bob Thorpe was over to-day. 

"So?" 

"Uh-huh; wanted to buy the Captain." 

After a pause Jed commented: "That s nat 
ural." 

"Wanted me to give you the good word." 

The old man walked through the doorway 
into the little bunk room and VB heard him flop 
into the crude bed. 

A short interval of silence. 

"Jed," called VB, "ever hear where his daughter 
went to school?" 

A long yawn. Then: 

"Yep don t remember." 

Another pause. 

"She was over, too." 

"Oh-ho-o-o!" 

The boy felt himself flushing, and then sat bolt 
upright, wondering soberly and seriously why it 
should be so without reason. 



i52 "_I CONQUERED" 

Young VB slept restlessly that night. He 
tossed and dreamed, waking frequently under a 
sense of nervous tension, then falling back to 
half-slumber once more. Thorpe came, and his 
daughter, offering fabulous sums for the Captain, 
which were stubbornly refused. 

Then, shouting at the top of her voice, the girl 
cried: 

"But I will give you kisses for him! Surely 
that is enough!" 

And VB came back to himself, sitting up in 
bed and wadding the blankets in his hands. He 
blinked in the darkness and herded his scattered 
senses with difficulty. Then the hands left off 
twisting the covers and went slowly to his throat. 
For the thirst was on him and in the morning he 
rose in the grip of the same stifling desire, and his 
quavering hands spilled things as he ate. 

Jed noticed, but made no comment. When 
the meal was finished he said: 

"S pose I could get you to crawl up on the 
Captain an take a shoot up Curley Gulch with 
an eye out for that black mare an her yearlin ?" 

VB was glad to be alone with his horse, and as 
he walked to the corral, his bridle over his arm, 
he felt as though, much as Jed could help him, he 
could never bring the inspiration which the black 
beast offered. 

He opened the gate and let it swing wide. 
The Captain came across to him with soft 
nickelings, deserting the alfalfa he was munching. 



VB FIGHTS 153 

He thrust his muzzle into the crook of VB s 
elbow, and the arm tightened on it desperately, 
while the other hand went up to twine fingers 
in the luxurious mane. 

"Oh, Captain!" he muttered, putting his face 
close to the animal s cheek. "You know what 
it is to fight for yourself ! You know but where 
you found love and help when you lost that 
fight, I d find just blackness without even 
a candle 

The stallion moved closer, shoving with his 
head until he forced VB out of the corral. Then 
with his teasing lips he sought the bridle. 

"You seem to understand!" the man cried, 
his tired eyes lighting. "You seem to know 
what I need!" 

Five minutes later he was rushing through the 
early morning air up the gulch, the Captain 
bearing him along with that free, firm, faultless 
stride that had swept him over those mountains 
for so many long, unmolested years. 

Throughout the forenoon they rode hard. 
VB looked for the mare and colt, but the search 
did not command much of his attention. 

"Why can t I turn all this longing into some 
thing useful?" he asked the horse. "Your lust 
for freedom has come to this end; why can t my 
impulses to be a wild beast be driven into another 
path?" 

And the Captain made answer by bending his 
superb head and lipping VB s chap-clad knee. 



154 "I CONQUERED" 

The quest was fruitless, and an hour before 
noon VB turned back toward the ranch, making 
a short cut across the hills. In one of the gulches 
the Captain nickered softly and increased his 
trotting. VB let him go, unconscious of his 
brisker movement, for the calling in his throat 
had risen to a clamor. The horse stopped and 
lowered his head, drinking from a hole into 
which crystal water seeped. 

The man dropped off and flopped on his stom 
ach, thrusting his face into the pool close to the 
nose of the greedily drinking stallion. He took 
the water in great gulps. It was cold, as cold as 
spring water can be, yet it was as nothing against 
the fire within him. 

The Captain, raising his head quickly, caught 
his breath with a grunt, dragging the air deep 
into his great lungs and exhaling slowly, loudly, 
as he gazed off down the gulch; then he chewed 
briskly on the bit and thrust his nose again into 
the spring. 

VB s arm stole up and dropped over the horse s 
head. 

"Oh, boy, you know what one kind of thirst 
is," he said in a whisper. "But there s another 
kind that this stuff won t quench! The thirst 
that comes from being in blackness 

They went on, dropped off a point, and made 
for the fiat little buildings of the ranch. As he 
approached, VB saw three saddled horses standing 



VB FIGHTS 155 

before the house, none of which was Jed s prop 
erty. Nothing strange in that, however, for one 
man s home is another s shelter in that country, 
whether the owner be on the ground or not, and 
to VB the thought of visitors brought relief. 
Contact with others might joggle him from his 
mood. 

He left the Captain, saddled, at the corral gate, 
bridle reins down, and he knew that the horse 
would not budge so much as a step until told to 
do so. Then he swung over toward the house, 
heels scuffing the hard dirt, spurs jingling. At 
the threshold he walked squarely into the man 
Rhues. 

The recognition was a distinct shock. He 
stepped backward a pace recoiled rather, for 
the movement was as from a thing he detested. 
Into his mind crowded every detail of his former 
encounters with this fellow; in the Anchor bunk 
house and across the road from the saloon in 
Ranger. They came back vividly the expres 
sion of faces, lights and shadows, even odors, 
and the calling in him for the help that throttles 
became agonizing. 

Rhues misconstrued his emotion. His judg 
ment was warped by the spirit of the bully, and 
he thought this man feared him. He remem 
bered that defiant interchange of questions, and 
the laugh that went to VB on their first meeting. 
He nursed the rankling memory. He had told 
it about that Avery s tenderfoot was afraid to 



156 "I CONQUERED" 

take a drink speaking greater truth than he was 
aware but his motive had been to discredit 
VB in the eyes of the countrymen, for he belonged 
to that ilk who see in debauchery the mark of 
manhood. 

Coming now upon the man he had chosen to 
persecute, and reading fear in VB s eyes, Rhues 
was made crudely happy. 

"You don t appear to be overglad to see us," 
he drawled. 

VB glanced into the room. A Mexican sat 
on the table, smoking and swinging his legs; a 
white man he remembered having seen in Ranger 
stood behind Rhues. Jed was nowhere about. 
He looked back at the snaky leer in those half- 
opened green eyes, and a rage went boiling into 
his brain. The unmistakable challenge which 
came from this bully was of the sort that strips 
from men civilization s veneer. 

"You ve gessed it," he said calmly. "I don t 
know why I should be glad to see you. These 
others" he motioned "are strangers to me." 

Then he stepped past Rhues into the room. 

The man grinned at him as he tossed his hat 
to a chair and unbuckled the leather cuffs. 

"But that makes no difference," he went on. 
"Jed is n t here. It s meal time, and if you men 
want to eat I ll build a big enough dinner." 

Rhues laughed, and the mockery in his tone 
was of the kind that makes the biggest of men 
forget they can be above insult. 



VB FIGHTS 157 

"We did n t come here to eat," he said. "We 
come up to see a horse we heerd about th 
Captain. We heerd Jed caught him." 

VB started. The thought of Rhues inspecting 
the stallion, commenting on him, admiring him, was 
as repulsive to Young VB as would be the thought 
to a lover of a vile human commenting vulgarly 
on the sacred body of the woman of women. 

The Mexican strolled out of the house as VB, 
turning to the stove, tried to ignore the explana 
tion of their presence. He walked on toward the 
ponies. A dozen steps from the house he stopped, 
and called: 

"Por Dios, hombre!" 

Rhues and the other followed him, and VB saw 
them stand together, staring in amazement at 
the Captain. Then they moved toward the great 
horse, talking to one another and laughing. 

VB followed, with a feeling of indignation. 
The trio advanced, quickening their pace. 

"Hold on!" he cried in sudden alarm. "Don t 
go too near; he s dangerous!" 

Already the Captain had flattened his ears, 
and as VB ran out he could see the nose wrinkling, 
the lips drawing back. 

"What s got into you?" demanded Rhues, 
turning, while the Mexican laughed jeeringly. "I 
guess if you can ride him a man can git up clost 
without gittin chawed up! Remember, young 
kid, we ve been workin with hosses sence you 
was suckin yer thumb." 



i S 8 " I CONQUERED" 

The others laughed again, but VB gave no heed. 
He was seeing red again ; reason had gone either 
reason or the coating of conventions. 

"Well, if you won t stand away from him 
because of danger, you ll do it because I say so!" 
he muttered. 

"O-ho, an that s it!" laughed Rhues, walking 
on. 

VB passed him and approached the Captain 
and took his bridle. 

"Be still, boy," he murmured. "Stand where 
you are." 

He stroked the nose, and the wrinkles left it. 

Rhues laughed again harshly. 

"Well, that s a fine kind o buggy horse!" he 
jeered. "Let a tenderfoot come up an steal 
all th man-eatin fire outen him!" 

He laughed again and the others joined. The 
Mexican said something in Spanish. 

"Yah," assented Rhues. "I thought we was 
comin to see a hoss th kind o nag this feller 
pertended to be. But now look at him ! He s 
just a low-down 

VB sprang toward him. 

You - he breathed, you you hound ! 
Why, you are n t fit to come into sight of this 
horse. You you apologize to that horse!" he 
demanded, and even through his molten rage the 
words sounded unutterably silly. 

Yet he went on, fists clenched, carried beyond 
reason or balance by the instinctive hate for 



VB FIGHTS 159 

this man and love for the black animal behind him. 

Rhues laughed again. 

"Who says so, besides you, you . Why, 

you ain t no more man n that hoss is hoss!" 

He saw then that he had reckoned poorly. 
The greenhorn, the boy who cowered at the 
thought of a man s dissipation, had disappeared, 
and in his stead stood a quivering young animal, 
poising for a pounce. 

Being a bully, Rhues was a coward. So when 
VB sprang, and he knew conflict was unavoidable, 
his right hand whipped back. The ringers closed 
on the handle of his automatic as VB made 
the first step. They made their hold secure as the 
Easterner s arm drew back. They yanked at 
the gun as that fist shot out. 

It was a good blow, a clean blow, a full blow 
right on the point of the chin, and, quickly as it 
had been delivered, the right was back in an 
instinctive guard and the left had rapped out hard 
on the snarling mouth. Rhues went backward 
and down, unbalanced by the first shock, crushed 
by the second; and the third, a repeated jab of 
the left, caught him behind the ear and stretched 
him helpless in the dust. 

His fingers relaxed their hold on the gun that 
he had not been quick enough to use, so lightning- 
like was the attack from this individual he had 
dubbed a "kid." VB stepped over the pros 
trate form, put his toe under the revolver, and 
flipped it a dozen yards away. 



160 "_I CONQUERED" 

Then Jed A very pulled up his horse in a shower 
of dust, and VB, his rage choking down words, 
turned to lead the Captain into the corral. The 
animal nosed him fiercely and pulled back to look 
at Rhues, who, under the crude ministrations of 
his two companions, had taken on a semblance 
of life. 

A moment later VB returned from the inclosure, 
bearing his riding equipment. He said to Jed: 
"This man insulted the Captain. I had to whip 
him." Then he walked to the wagon shed, 
dropped his saddle in its shelter, and came back. 

Rhues sat up and, as VB approached, got to his 
feet. He lurched forward as if to rush his enemy, 
but the Mexican caught him and held him back. 

VB stood, hands on hips, and glared at him. 
He said: "No, I wouldn t come again if I were 
you. I don t want to have to smash you again. 
I d enjoy it in a way, but when a man is knocked 
out he s whipped in my country judged by 
the standards we set there. 

"You re a coward, Rhues a dirty, sneaking, 
low-down coward! Every gun-man is a coward. 
It s no way to settle disputes gun righting." 

He glared at the fellow before him, who swore 
under his breath but who could not summon the 
courage to strike. 

"You re a coward, and I hope I ve impressed 
that on you," VB went on, "and you ll take a 
coward s advantage. Hereafter I m going to 
carry a gun. You won t fight in my way because 



VB FIGHTS 161 

you re not a man, so I 11 have to be prepared for 
you in your way. I just want to let you know 
that I understand your breed! That s all. 

"Don t start anything, because I ll fight in 
two ways hereafter in my way and in yours. 
And that goes for you other two. If you run 
with this this thing, it marks you. I know 
what would have happened if Jed had n t come 
up. You d have killed me! That s the sort 
you are. Remember all three of you I m 
not afraid, but it s a case of fighting fire with 
fire. I ll be ready." 

Rhues stood, as though waiting for more. 

When VB did not go on he said, just above a 
whisper : I ll get you yet ! 

And VB answered, "Then I guess we all under 
stand one another." 

When the three had ridden away Jed shoved 
his Colt tight into its holster again and looked 
at the young chap with foreboding. 

"There 11 be trouble, VB ; they re bad," he said. 
"He s a coward. The story 11 go round an he ll 
try to get you harder n ever. If he don t, 
those others will will try, I mean. Matson and 
Julio are every bit as bad as Rhues, but they 
ain t quite got his fool nerve. 

"They re a thievin bunch, though it ain t 
never been proved. Nobody trusts em; most 
men let em alone an wait fer em to show their 
hand. They ve been cute; they ve been sus 
pected, but they ain t never got out on a limb. 

11 



162 _! CONQUERED" 

They ve got a lot to cover up, no doubt. But 
they ve got a grudge now. An when cowards 
carry grudges look out!" 

"If a man like Rhues were all I had to fear, I 
should never worry," VB muttered, weak again 
after the excitement. "He s bad but there 
are worse things that you can t have the 
satisfaction of knocking down." 

And his conspiring nostrils smelled whisky in 
that untainted air. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE 

YOUNG VB held a twofold interest for the 
men of Clear River. First, the story of 
his fight with the Captain spread over the land, 
percolating to the farthest camps. Men laughed 
at first. The absurdity of it! Then, their 
surprise giving way to their appreciation of his 
attainment, their commendation for the young 
Easterner soared to superlatively profane heights. 

When he met those who had been strangers 
before it was to be scrutinized and questioned 
and frankly, honestly admired. 

Now came another reason for discussing him 
about bunk-house stoves. He had thrashed 
Rhues! Great as had been the credit accorded 
VB for the capture of the stallion, just so great 
was men s delight caused by the outcome of that 
other encounter. 

They remembered, then, how Rhues had told 
of the greenhorn who was afraid to take a drink; 
how he had made it a purpose to spread stories of 
ridicule, doing his best to pervert the community s 
natural desire to let the affairs of others alone. 
And this recollection of Rhues s bullying was an 
added reason for their saying : Good ! I m glad to 
hear it. Too bad th kid did n t beat him to death ! " 



164 " I CONQUERED" 

Though his meetings with other men were few 
and scattered, VB was coming to be liked. It 
mattered little to others why he was in the country, 
from where he came, or who he had been. He had 
accomplished two worthy things among them, and 
respect was accorded him across vast distances. 
Dozens of these men had seen him only once, and 
scores never, yet they reckoned him of their 
number a man to be taken seriously, worthy 
of their kindly attention, of their interest, and of 
their respect. 

Bob Thorpe helped to establish VB in the 
mountains. He thought much about his inter 
view with the young chap, and told to a half- 
dozen men the story which, coming from him, 
had weight. 

His daughter did not abandon her idea of own 
ing the Captain. Bob told her repeatedly that 
it was useless to argue with a man who spoke 
as did Jed s rider; but the girl chose to disagree 
with him. 

"I think that if you d flatter him enough if 
we both would that he would listen. Don t 
you?" she asked. 

Bob Thorpe shook his head. 

"No," he answered. "You can t convince 
me of that. You don t know men, and I do. 
I Ve seen one or two like him before who love 
a thing of that sort above money; and, I ve found 
you can t do a thing with em ding em!" 

The girl cried: "Why, don t feel that way 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE 165 

about it ! I think it s perfectly fine to love an 
animal so much that money won t buy him!" 

"Sure it is," answered her father. "That s 
what makes me out of patience with them. 
They re they re better men than most of us, 
and well, they make a fellow feel rather small 
at times." 

Then he went away, and Gail puzzled over his 
concluding remark. 

A week to a day after her first visit she drove 
again to Jed s ranch. 

"I came over to see the Captain," she told 
the old man gayly. 

"Well, th Captain ain t here now," he an 
swered, beaming on her; "but VB ll be back with 
him before noon." 

She looked for what seemed to be an unneces 
sarily long time at her watch, and then asked: 

"Is that his name?" 

"What th Captain?" 

"No VB." 

Jed laughed silently at her. 

Yep to be sure an that s his name all 
th name he s got." 

"Well, I wish Mr. VB would hurry back with 
the Captain," she said. 

But that easy flush was again in her cheeks, 
and the turn she gave the conversation was, as 
they say in certain circles, poor footwork. 

Within an hour the Captain bore his rider home. 
Gail stayed for dinner and ate with the two men. 



i66 "_I CONQUERED" 

It was a strange meal for VB. Not in months 
had he eaten at the same table with a woman; 
not in years had he broken bread with a woman 
such as this, and realization of the fact carried 
him back beyond those darkest days. He remem 
bered suddenly and quite irrelevantly that he 
once had wondered if this daughter of Bob 
Thorpe s was to be a connecting link with the 
old life. That had been when he first learned 
that the big cattleman had a daughter, and that 
she was living in his East. Now as he sat before 
neglected food and watched and listened, feasting 
his starved spirit on her, noting her genuine 
vivacity, her enthusiasm, the quick come and go 
of color in her fine skin, he knew that she was a 
link, but not with the past that he had feared. 
She took him back beyond that, into his earlier 
boyhood, that period of adolescence when, to a 
clean-minded boy, all things are good and un 
stained. She was attractive in all the ways that 
women can be attractive, and at the same time 
she was more than a desirable individual; she 
seemed to stand for classes, for modes of living 
and thinking, that Young VB had put behind 
him put behind first by his wasting, now by 
distance. But as the meal progressed a fresh 
wonder crept up in his mind. Was all that 
really so very far away? Was not the distance 
just that between them and the big ranch house 
under the cotton woods beyond the hills? And 
was the result of his wasting quite irreparable? 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE 167 

Was he not rebuilding what he had torn down? 

He felt himself thrilling and longing suddenly 
for fresher, newer experiences as the talk ran on 
between the others. The conversation was wholly 
of the country, and VB was surprised to discover 
that this girl could talk intelligently and argue 
effectively with Jed over local stock conditions 
when she looked for all the world like any of the 
hundreds he could pick out on Fifth Avenue at 
five o clock of any fine afternoon. He corrected 
himself hastily. She was not like those others, 
either. She possessed all their physical endow 
ments, all and more, for her eye was clearer, her 
carriage better, she was possessed of a color that 
was no sham; and a finer body. Put her beside 
them in their own environment, and they would 
seem stale by comparison ; bring those others 
here, and their bald artificiality would be pathetic. 
The boy wanted her to know those things, yet 
thought of telling her never came to his conscious 
ness. Subjectively he was humble before her. 

The interest between the two young people was 
not centered completely in VB. Each time he 
lowered his gaze to his plate he was conscious of 
those frank, intelligent blue eyes on him, study 
ing, prying, wondering, a laugh ever deep within 
them. Now and then the girl addressed a remark 
to him, but for the most part she spoke directly 
to Jed; however, she was studying the boy every 
instant, quietly, carefully, missing no detail, 
and by the time the meal neared its end the 



168 "_ I CONQUERED" 

laughter had left her eyes and they betrayed 
a frank curiosity. 

When the meal was finished the girl asked VB 
to take her to the corral. She made the request 
lightly, but it smote something in the man a 
teriffic blow, stirring old memories, fresh desires, 
and he was strangely glad that he could do some 
thing for her. As they walked from the cabin 
to the inclosure he was flushed, embarrassed, 
awkward. He could not talk to her, could 
scarcely keep his body from swinging from side 
to side with schoolbo}^ shyness. 

The stallion did not fidget at sight of the girl 
as he had done on the approach of other strangers. 
He snorted and backed away, keeping his eyes 
on her and his ears up with curiosity, coming to 
a halt against the far side of the corral and 
switching his fine tail down over the shapely 
hocks as though to make these people understand 
that in spite of his seeming harmlessness he might 
yet show the viciousness that lurked down in his 
big heart. 

"I think he ll come to like you," said VB, 
looking from his horse to the girl. "I don t see 
how he could help it to like women, under 
stand," he added hastily when she turned a wide- 
eyed gaze on him. "He doesn t like strange 
men, but see he s interested in you; and it s 
curiosity, not anger. I I don t blame him 
for being interested," he ventured, and hated him 
self for the flush that swept up from his neck. 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE i6g 

They both laughed, and Gail said: "So this 
country hasn t taken the flattery out of you?" 

"Why, it s been years years since I said a 
thing like that to a girl of your sort," VB an 
swered soberly. 

An awkward pause followed. 

"Dare I touch him?" the girl finally asked. 

"No, I wouldn t to-day," VB advised. "Just 
let him look at you now. Some other time we ll 
see if That is, if you 11 ever come to see us 
to see the Captain again." 

"I should like to come to see the Captain very 
much, and as often as is proper," she said with 
mocking demureness. 

And she did come again; and again and yet 
again. Always she took pains to begin with 
inquiries about the horse. When she did this 
in Jed Avery s presence it was with a peculiar 
avoidance of his gaze, that might have been from 
embarrassment; when she asked Young VB those 
questions it was with a queer little teasing smile. 
A half-dozen times she found the boy alone at 
the ranch, and the realization that on such occa 
sions she stayed longer than she did when Jed 
was about gave him a new thrill of delight. 

At first there was an awkward reserve between 
them, but after the earlier visits this broke down 
and their talk became interspersed with personal 
references, with small, inconsequential confidences 
that, intrinsically worthless, meant much to them. 
Yet there was never a word of the life both had 



i 7 o _! CONQUERED" 

lived far over the other side of those snowcaps 
to the eastward. Somehow the girl felt intui 
tively that it had not all been pleasant for the. 
man there, and VB maintained a stubborn 
reticence. He could have told her much of her 
own life back in the East, of the things she liked, 
of the events and conditions that were irksome, 
because he knew the environment in which she 
had lived and he felt that he knew the girl herself. 
He would not touch that topic, however, for it 
would lead straight to his life; and all that he 
wanted for his thoughts now were Jed and the 
hills and the Captain and this girl. They 
composed a comfortable world of which he wanted 
to be a part. 

Gail found herself feeling strangely at home 
with this young fellow. She experienced a min 
gled feeling compounded of her friendship for the 
finished youths she had known during school days 
and that which she felt for the men of her moun 
tains, who were, she knew, as rugged, as genuine, 
as the hills themselves. To her Young VB rang 
true from the ground up, and he bore the finish 
that can come only from contact with many men. 
That is a rare combination. 

It came about that after a time the Captain 
let Gail touch him, allowed her to walk about him 
and caress his sleek body. Always, when she was 
near, he stood as at attention, dignified and self- 
conscious, and from time to time his eyes would 
seek the face of his master, as though for 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE 171 

reassurance. Once after the girl had gone VB 
took the Captain s face between his hands and, 
looking into the big black eyes, muttered almost 
fiercely : 

"She s as much of the real stuff as you are, old 
boy! Do you think, Captain, that I can ever 
match up with you two?" 

Before a month had gone by the girl could lead 
the Captain about, could play with him almost 
as familiarly as VB did; but always the horse 
submitted as if uninterested, went through this 
formality of making friends as though it were a 
duty that bored him. 

Once Dick Worth, the deputy from Sand Creek, 
and his wife rode up the gulch to see the black 
stallion. While the Captain would not allow the 
man near him, he suffered the woman to tweak 
his nose and slap his cheeks and pull his ears; 
then it was that Jed and VB knew that the animal 
understood the difference between sexes and that 
the chivalry which so became him had been 
cultivated by his intimacy with Gail Thorpe. 

After that, of course, there was no plausible 
excuse for Gail s repeated visits. However, she 
continued coming. VB was always reserved up 
to a certain point before her, never yielding beyond 
it in spite of the strength of the subtle tactics she 
employed to draw him out. A sense of uncer 
tainty of himself held him aloof. Within him was 
a traditional respect for women. He idealized 
them, and then set for men a standard which they 



172 "_I CONQUERED" 

must attain before meeting women as equals. 
But this girl, while satisfying his ideal, would 
not remain aloof. She forced herself into VB s 
presence, forced herself, and yet with a delicacy 
that could not be misunderstood. She came 
regularly, her visits lengthened, and one sunny 
afternoon as they stood watching the Captain 
roll she looked up sharply at the man beside her. 

"Why do you keep me at this?" 

"This? What? I don t get your meaning." 

"At coming over here? Why don t you come 
to see me ? I - Of course, I have n t any fine 
horse to show you, but " 

Her voice trailed off, with a hint of wounded 
pride in the tone. The man faced her, stunning 
surprise in his face. 

"You you don t think I fail to value this 
friendship of ours?" he demanded, rallying. 
"You- Why, what can I say to you? It 
has meant so much to me just seeing you; it s 
been one of the finest things of this fine country. 
But I thought I thought it was because of 
this, "--with a gesture toward the Captain, who 
stood shaking the dust from his hair with mighty 
effort. "I thought all along you were interested 
in the horse; not that you cared about knowing 
me" 

"Did you really think that?" she broke in. 

VB flushed, then laughed, with an abrupt change 
-of mood. 

"Well, it began that way," he pleaded weakly. 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE 173 

"And you d let it end that way." 

"Oh, no; you don t understand, Miss Thorpe," 
serious again. "I I can t explain, and you 
don t understand now. But I ve felt somehow 
as though it would be presuming too much if I 
came to see you." 

She looked at him calculatingly a long moment 
as he twirled his hat and kicked at a pebble with 
his boot. 

"I think it would be presuming too much if 
you let me do all the traveling, since you admit 
that a friendship does exist," she said lightly. 

"Then the only gallant thing for me to do is to 
call on you." 

"I think so. I m glad you recognize the fact." 

"When shall it be?" 

"Any time. If I m not home, stay until I get 
back. Daddy likes you. You ll love my mother." 

The vague "any time" occurred three days 
later. Young VB made a special trip over the 
hills to the S Bar S. The girl was stretched in a 
hammock, reading, when he rode up, and at the 
sound of his horse she scrambled to her feet, 
flushed, and evidently disconcerted. 

"I d given you up!" she cried. 

"In three days?" taking the hand she offered. 

"Well most boys in the East would have 
come the next morning if they were really 
interested." 

"This is Colorado," he reminded her. 

He sat crosslegged on the ground at her feet, 



i 7 4 "I CONQUERED" 

and they talked of the book she had been reading. 
It was a novel of music and a musician and a rare 
achievement, she said. He questioned her about 
the story, and their talk drifted to music, on 
which they both could converse well. 

"You don t know what it means to sit here and 
talk of these things with you," he said hungrily. 

"Well, I should like to know," she said, leaning 
forward over her knees. 

For two long hours they talked as they never 
had talked before; of personal tastes, of kindred 
enthusiasms, of books and plays and music and 
people. They went into the ranch house, and 
Gail played for him on the only grand piano 
in that section of the state. They came out, and 
she saddled her pony to ride part way back through 
the hills with him. 

"Adios, my friend," she called after him, as 
he swung away from her. 

"It s your turn to call now," he shouted back 
to her, and when the ridge took him from sight 
he leaned low to the Captain s ear and repeated 
gently, - my friend ! 

So the barrier of reserve was broken. VB did 
not dare think into the future in any connection 
least of all in relation to this new and growing 
friendship; yet he wanted to make their under 
standing more complete though he would scarcely 
admit that fact even to himself. 

A week had not passed when Gail Thorpe drove 
the automobile up to the VB gate. 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE 175 

"I did n t come to see the Captain this time," 
she announced to them both. "I came to pay a 
party call to Mr. VB, and to include Mr. Avery. 
Because when a girl out here receives a visit 
from a man it s of party proportions!" 

As she was leaving, she asked, "Why don t you 
come down to the dance Friday night?" 

"A big event?" 

"Surely!" She laughed merrily. "It s the 
first one since spring, and everybody 11 be there. 
Mr. Avery will surely come. Won t you, too, 
Mr. VB?" 

He evaded her, but when she had turned the 
automobile about and sped down the road, 
homeward bound, he let down the bars for youth s 
romanticism and knew that he would dance with 
her if it meant walking every one of the twenty-two 
miles to the schoolhouse. 

For the first time in years VB felt a thrill at 
the anticipation of a social function, and with it a 
guilty little thought kept buzzing in the depths 
of his mind. The thought was: Is her hair as 
fragrant as it is glorious in color and texture? 

Jed and VB made the ride after supper, over 
frozen paths, for autumn had aged and the tang of 
winter was in the air. Miles away they could 
see the glow of the bonfire that had been built 
before the little stone schoolhouse; and VB was 
not sorry that Jed wanted to ride the last stages 
of the trip at a faster pace. 



176 "_I CONQUERED" 

Clear River had turned out, to the last man 
and woman and to the last child, too ! The 
schoolhouse was no longer a seat of learning; it 
was a festal bower. The desks had been taken 
up and placed along the four walls, seats outward, 
tops forming a ledge against the calcimined stones, 
making a splendid place for those youngest 
children who had turned out! Yes, a dozen 
babies slumbered there in the confusion, wrapped 
in many thicknesses of blankets. 

Three lamps with polished reflectors were 
placed on window ledges, and the yellow glare 
filled the room with just sufficient brilliance to 
soften lines in faces and wrinkles in gowns that 
clung to bodies in unexpected places. The fourth 
window ledge was reserved for the music a 
phonograph with a morning-glory horn, a green 
morning-glory horn that would have baffled a 
botanist. The stove blushed as if for its plain 
ness in the center of the room, and about it, 
with a great scraping of feet and profound 
efforts to be always gentlemanly and at ease, 
circled the men, guiding their partners. 

VB stood in the doorway and watched. He 
coughed slightly from the dust that rose and 
mantled everything with a dulling blanket 
everything, I said, but the eyes must be excepted. 
They flashed with as warm a brilliance as they 
ever do where there is music and dancing and 
laughter. 

The music stopped. Women scurried to their 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE 177 

seats; some lifted the edges of blankets and 
peered with concerned eyes at the little sleepers 
lying there, then whirled about and opened their 
arms to some new gallant; for so brief was the 
interval between dances. 

"Well, are you never going to see me?" 

VB started at the sound of Gail s voice so close 
to him. He bowed and smiled at her. 

I was interested, he said in excuse. Getting 
my bearings." 

She did not reply, but the expectancy in her face 
forced his invitation, and they joined the swirl 
about the stove. 

"I can t dance in these riding boots," he 
confided with an embarrassed laugh. "Never 
thought about it until now." 

"Oh, yes, you can! You dance much better 
than most men. Don t stop, please!" 

He knew that no woman who danced with 
Gail s lightness could find pleasure in the stum 
bling, stilted accompaniment of his handicapped 
feet ; and the conviction sent a fresh thrill through 
him. He was glad she wanted him to keep on! 
She had played upon the man down in him and 
touched upon vanity, one of those weak spots in 
us. She wanted him near. His arm, spite of 
his caution, tightened a trifle and he suddenly 
knew that her hair was as fragrant as it should 
be a heavy, rich odor that went well with its 
other wealth ! For an instant he was a bit giddy, 
but as the music came to a stop he recovered 

12 



178 "I CONQUERED" 

himself and walked silently beside Gail to a seat. 

After that he danced with the wife of a cattle 
man, and answered absently her stammered 
advances at communication while he watched the 
floating figure of Gail Thorpe as it followed the 
bungling lead of her father s foreman. 

The end of the intermission found him with her 
again. As they whirled away his movements 
became a little quicker, his tongue a little looser. 
It had been a long time since he had felt so gay. 

He learned of the other women, Gail telling 
him about them as they danced, and through the 
thrill that her warm breath aroused he found 
himself delighting in the individuality of her 
expression, the stamping of a characteristic in his 
mind by a queer little word or twisted phrase. 
He discovered, too, that she possessed a penetrat 
ing insight into the latent realities of life. The 
red-handed, blunt, strong women about him, who 
could ride with their husbands and brothers, who 
could face hardships, who knew grim elementals, 
became new beings under the interpretation of this 
sunny-haired girl; took on a charm tinged with 
pathos that brought up within VB a sympathy 
that those struggles in himself had all but buried. 
And the knowledge that Gail appreciated those 
raw realities made him look down at her linger- 
ingly, a trifle wonderingly. 

She was of that other life the life of refine 
ments in so many ways, yet she had escaped 
its host of artificialities. She had lifted herself 



THE SCHOOLHOUSE DANCE 179 

above the people among whom she was reared; 
but her touch, her sympathies, her warm human- 
ness remained unalloyed! She was real. 

And then, when he was immersed in this 
appreciation of her, she turned the talk suddenly 
to him. He was but slightly responsive. He put 
her off, evaded, but he laughed ; his cold reluctance 
to let her know him had ceased to be so stern, 
and her determination to get behind his silence 
rose. 

As they stood in the doorway in a midst of 
repartee she burst on him: 

"Mr. VB, why do you go about with that awful 
name? It s almost as bad as being branded." 

He sobered so quickly that it frightened her. 

"Maybe I am branded," he said slowly, and her 
agile understanding caught the significance of his 
tone. "Perhaps I m branded and can t use 
another. Who knows?" 

He smiled at her, but from sobered eyes. 
Confused by his evident seriousness, she made 
one more attempt, and laughed: "Well, if you 
won t tell me who you are, won t you please tell 
me what you are?" 

The door swung open then, and on the heels of 
her question came voices from without. One 
voice rose high above the rest, and they heard: 
"Aw, come on; le s have jus one more little drag 
at th bottle!" 

VB looked at Gail a bit wildly. 

Those words meant that out there whisky was 



i8o "_I CONQUERED" 

waiting for him, and at its mention that searing 
thing sprang alive in his throat! 

"What am I?" he repeated dully, trying to 
rally himself. "What am I?" Unknowingly 
his fingers gripped her arm. "Who knows? 
I don t!" 

And he flung out of the place, wanting but one 
thing to be with the Captain, to feel the stal 
lion s nose in his arms, to stand close to the body 
which housed a spirit that knew no defeat. 

As he strode past the bonfire a man s face leered 
at him from the far side. The man was Rhues. 



CHAPTER XV 

MURDER 

T > HE incident at the schoolhouse was not 
- overlooked. Gail Thorpe was not the only 
one who heard and saw and understood; others 
connected the mention of drink with VB s sudden 
departure. The comment went around in whis 
pers at the dance, to augment and amplify those 
other stories which had arisen back in the Anchor 
bunk house and which had been told by Rhues 
of the meeting in Ranger. 

"Young VB is afraid to take a drink," declared 
a youth to a group about the fire where they 
discussed the incident. 

He laughed lightly and Dick Worth looked 
sharply at the boy. 

"Mebby he is," he commented, reprimand in 
his tone, "an mebby it d be a good thing for some 
o you kids if you was afraid. Don t laugh at 
him ! We know he s pretty much man cause 
he s done real things since comin in here a rank 
greenhorn. Don t laugh ! You ought to help, 
instead o that." 

And the young fellow, taking the rebuke, 
admitted: "I guess you re right. Maybe the 
booze has put a crimp in him." 

So VB gave the community one more cause for 

181 



i8 2 "_I CONQUERED" 

watching him. Quick to perceive, ever taking 
into consideration his achievements which spoke 
of will and courage, Clear River gave him silent 
sympathy, and promptly put the matter out of 
open discussion. It was no business of theirs so 
long as VB kept it to himself. Yet they watched, 
knowing a fight was being waged and guessing at 
the outcome, the older and wiser ones hoping 
while they guessed. 

When Bob Thorpe announced to his daughter 
that he was going to Jed Avery s ranch and 
would like to have her drive him over through 
the first feathery dusting of snow, a strain of 
unpleasant thinking which had endured for three 
days was broken for the girl. In fact, her relief 
was so evident that the cattleman stared hard at 
his daughter. 

"You re mighty enthusiastic about that place, 
seems to me," he remarked. 

"Why should n t I be?" she asked. "There s 
where they keep the finest horse in this country!" 

"Is that all?" he asked, a bit grimly. 

She looked at him and laughed. Then, coming 
close, she patted one of the weathered cheeks. 

"He s awfully nice, daddy and so myste 
rious!" 

The giggle she forced somehow reassured him. 
He did not know it was forced. 

They arrived at Jed s ranch as Kelly, the 
horse buyer, was preparing to depart after long 
weeks in the country. His bunch was in the 



MURDER 183 

lower pasture and two saddle horses waited at the 
gate. 

Thorpe and his daughter found Jed, VB, and 
Kelly in the cabin. The horse buyer was just 
putting bills back into his money belt, and Jed 
still fingered the roll that he had taken for his 
horses. 

"Aren t you afraid to pack all that around, 
Kelly?" Thorpe asked. 

"No nobody holds people up any more," he 
laughed. "There s only an even six hundred 
there, anyhow and a fifty-dollar bill issued by 
the Confederate States of America, which I carry 
for luck. My father was a raider with Morgan," 
he explained, "and I was fifteen years old before 
I knew damn Yank was two words!" 

VB was preparing to go with the buyer, to ride 
the first two days at least to help him handle 
the bunch. They expected to make it well out 
of Ranger the second day, and after that Kelly 
would pick up another helper. 

Gail followed VB when he went outside. 

"I m going away, too," she said. 

"So?"- 

"Yes; mother and I will leave for California 
day after to-morrow, for the winter." 

"That will be fine!" 

"Will I be missed?" 

He shrank from this personal talk. He 
remembered painfully their last meeting. He 
was acutely conscious of how it had ended, and 



184 "__I CONQUERED" 

knew that the incident of his abrupt departure 
must have set her wondering. 

"Yes," he answered, meeting her answer 
truthfully, "I shall miss you. I like you." 

Such a thing from him was indeed a jolt, and 
Gail stooped to pick up a wisp of hay to cover her 
confusion. 

"But I m sorry," he said, "I must be going." 

She looked up in surprise. The horse buyer 
still talked and the discussion bade fair to go on 
for a long time. 

"You re not starting?" she asked. 

"Oh, no. Not for half an hour, anyhow. But 
you see, the Captain found a pup-hole yesterday 
and wrenched his leg a little. Not much, but 
I don t want him to work when anything s wrong. 
So I m leaving him behind and I must look after 
him. Will you excuse me? Good-by!" 

She was so slow in extending her hand that he 
was forced to reach down for it. It was limp 
within his, and she merely mumbled a response 
to his hasty farewell. 

Gail watched him swing off toward the corral, 
saw him enter through the gate and put his 
face against the stallion s neck. She strolled 
toward the car, feet heavy. 

He would n t even ask me to go go with him. 
He cares more about that horse than " 

She clenched her fists and whispered: "I 
hate you! I hate you!" Then mounting to the 
seat and tucking the robe about her ankles, she 



MURDER 185 

blew her nose, wiped her eyes, and in a voice 
strained high said: "No, I don t, either." 

VB and Kelly took their bunch down the gulch 
at a spanking trot. Most of the stock was fairly 
gentle and they had little difficulty. They planned 
to stop at a deserted cabin a few miles north 
of Ranger where a passable remnant of fenced 
pasture still remained. They reached the place 
at dark and made a hasty meal, after which 
VB rolled in, but his companion roped a fresh 
horseand made on to Ranger for a few hours 
diversion. 

It was nearly dawn when Kelly returned with a 
droll account of the night s poker, and although 
VB was for going on early, wanting to be rid of 
the task, the other insisted on sleeping. 

"I don t want to get too far, anyhow," he 
said. Those waddies like to rimmed me last 
night. Got all I had except what s in old Betsy, 
the belt. I m goin back to-night and get their 
scalp!" 

It was noon before they reached Ranger and 
swung to the east. 

Oh, I 11 be back to-night and get you fellows ! " 
Kelly called to a man who waved to him from the 
saloon. 

VB held his gaze in the opposite direction. He 
knew that even the sight of the place might raise 
the devil in him again. 

A man emerged from one of the three isolated 
shacks down on the river bank. It was Rhues. 



186 "_I CONQUERED" 

The two rode slowly, for the buyer was in no 
mood for fast travel, and for a long time Rhues 
stood there following them with his eyes. 

At dusk the horsemen turned the bunch into a 
corral and prepared to spend the night with beds 
spread in the ruin of a cabin near the inclosure. 
Before the bed-horses had been relieved of their 
burdens a cowboy rode along who was known to 
Kelly, and arrangements were made for him to 
take VB s place on the morrow. 

"Well, then, all you want me to do is to stay 
here to-night to see that things don t go wrong. 
Is that it?" VB asked. 

"Yep Oh, I don t know," with a yawn. 
"I guess I won t sit in that game to-night. I ll 
get some sleep. Mebby if I did go back I d only 
have to dig up part of my bank here." He 
patted his waist. "You can go on home if you 
want to." 

VB was glad to be released, for he could easily 
reach the ranch that night. He left Kelly talking 
with the cowboy, making their plans for the next 
day, and struck across the country for Jed s ranch. 

Left alone, the horse buyer munched a cold 
meal. Then, shivering, he crept into his thick 
bed and slept. An hour passed two three. 

A horse dropped slowly off a point near the 
corral. A moment later two more followed. 
One rider dismounted and walked away after a 
low, hoarse w r hisper; another pushed his horse 



MURDER 187 

into the highway and stood still, listening; the 
third held the pony that had been left riderless. 

A figure, worming its way close to the ground, 
crawled up on the sleeping horse buyer. It 
moved silently, a yard at a time; then stopped, 
raised its head as though to listen; on again, 
ominously, so much a part of the earth it covered 
that it might have been just the ridge raised by 
a giant mole burrowing along under the surface. 
It approached to within three yards of the sleep 
ing man; to within six feet; three; two. 

Then it rose to its knees slowly, cautiously, 
silently, and put out a hand gently, lightly feeling 
the outlines of the blankets. A shoot of orange 
scorched the darkness and another, so close 
together that the flame was almost continuous. 
The blankets heaved, trembled, settled. 

The man on his knees hovered a long moment, 
revolver ready, listening intently. Not a sound 
even the horses seemed to be straining their ears 
for another break in the night. 

The man reached out a hand and drew the 
blankets away from the figure beneath, thrusting 
his face close. The starlight filtered in and he 
drew a long, quivering breath not in hate 
or horror, but in surprise. He got to his feet 
and listened again. Then he moved into the 
open, over the way he had come. After a dozen 
quick, stealthy paces he stopped and turned back. 
He unbuttoned the jumper about the figure 
under the blankets, unbuttoned the shirt, felt 



i83 " I CONQUERED" 

quickly about the waist, fumbled a moment, and 
jerked out a long, limp object. Again he strode 
catlike into the open, and as he went he tucked 
the money belt into his shirt-front. 

VB rode straight to the ranch. He made a 
quick ride and arrived before ten. 

"Mighty glad Kelly got that man," he told 
Jed. "I m. like a fish out of water away from 
the Captain." 

At dusk the next day a horseman rode up the 
gulch to Jed s outfit. The old man stood in the 
doorway, watching him approach. 

"Hello, Dick!" he called, recognizing the deputy 
from Sand Creek. 

"How s things, Jed?" 

" Better n fine." 

Worth left his horse and entered the cabin. 

"VB around?" he asked. 

"Uh-huh; out in th corral foolin with th 
Captain." 

Dick dropped to a chair and pushed his hat 
back. He looked on the other a moment, then 
asked : What time did VB get home last night ? 

Jed showed evident surprise, but answered: 
"Between half -past nine an ten." 

"Notice his horse?" 

"Saw him this mornin . Why?" 

"Was it a hard ride th boy made?" 

"No sure not. I rode th pony down to 
th lower pasture myself this afternoon." 



MURDER 189 

Worth drew a deep breath and smiled as though 
relieved. 

"Bein n officer is mighty onpleasant some 
times," he confessed. "I knew it wasn t no 
use to ask them questions, but I had to do it 
cause I m a deputy." With mouth set, Jed 
waited for the explanation he knew must come. 

"Kelly was killed while he slept last night." 

Horror was the first natural impulse for a 
man to experience on the knowledge of such a 
tragedy, but horror did not come to Jed Avery 
then or for many minutes. He put out a hand 
slowly and felt for the table as though dizzy. 

Then, in a half tone, "You don t mean you sus 
pected VB ? Dick Dick! 

The sheriff s face became troubled. 

"Jed, didn t I tell you I knew it wasn t no 
use to ask them questions?" he said reassuringly. 
"I d a gambled my outfit on th boy, cause I 
know what he is. When you tell me he got here 
by ten an it was n t a hard ride, I know they s 
no use even thinkin about it. But th fact is 

"You see, Jed, everybody in th country has 
got to know what s up with VB. They know 
he s fightin back th booze! That gang o 
skunks down at Ranger Rhues an his outfit - 
started out to rub it into VB, but everybody 
knew they was tellin lies. An everybody s 
thought lots of him fer th fight he s made." 

He got to his feet and walked slowly about the 
room. 



igo "_I CONQUERED" 

"But th truth is, Jed an you know it 
when a man s been hittin th booze, an we 
ain t sure he s beat it out, we re always lookin 
fer him to slip. Nobody down at Ranger has 
thought one word about VB in this, only that 
mebby he could tell who d been round there. 

"But, bein n officer, I had th sneakin , dirty 
idee I ought to ask them questions about VB. 
That s all there is to it, Jed. That s all! I m 
deputy; VB s been a boozer. 

But I tell you, Jed A very, it sure s a relief 
to know it s all right." 

The warmth of sincerity was in his tone and his 
assurances had been of the best, but Jed slumped 
limply into a chair and rested his head on his hands. 

"It s a rotten world, Dick a rotten, rotten 
world!" he said. "I know you re all right; I 
know you mean what you say; but ain t it a 
shame that when a man s down our first thought 
is to kick him? Always expect him to fall again 
once he gets up! Ain t it rotten?" 

And his love for Young VB, stirred anew by 
this sense of the injustice of things, welled into 
his throat, driving back more words. 

Dick Worth was a man of golden integrity; 
Jed knew well that no suspicion would be cast 
on VB. But the knowledge that serious-minded, 
clear-thinking men like the deputy would always 
remember, in a time like this, that those who had 
once run wild might fall into the old ways at any 
hour, stung him like a lash. 



MURDER 191 

VB opened the door. 

"Hello, Dick!" he greeted cheerily. "Want 
me?" 

Worth laughed and Jed started. 

"No; I come up to get a little help from you 
if I can, though." 

"Help?" 

"Kelly was shot dead in his bed last night." 

For a moment VB stared at him. 

"Who?" 

"That s what we don t know. That s what I 
came up here for to see if you could help us." 

And Jed, face averted, drew a foot quickly 
across the boards of the floor. 

One of Hank Redden s boys was with him 
th one who took your place until dark. Little 
after eight old Hank heard two shots, but did n t 
think nothin of it. Kelly was shot twice. 
That must a been th time." 

VB put down his hat, his eyes bright with 
excitement. 

"He d planned to go back to Ranger," he said. 
"But, after being up most of the night before, 
he was too tired. He told them at Ranger he d 
be back. And if I d been there they d have got 
me," he ended. 

"Unless they was lookin for Kelly especial," 
said Dick. "They took his money belt." 

"Mebby," muttered Jed, "mebby they made 
a mistake." 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE CANDLE BURNS 

TIME went on, and the country dropped 
back from the singing pitch of excitement 
to which the killing of the horse buyer raised it. 
Men agreed that some one of thac country had 
fired the shots into that blanket, but it is not a 
safe thing to suspect too openly. Dick Worth 
worked continually, but his efforts were without 
result. A reward of two hundred and fifty 
dollars for the slayer, dead or alive, disclosed 
nothing. 

After the evidence had been sifted, and each 
man had asked his quota of questions and passed 
judgment on the veracity of the myriad stories, 
Dick said to himself: "We ll settle down now 
and see who leaves the country." 

Jed and VB went about the winter s work in 
a leisurely way. For days after the visit of 
Worth the old man was quieter than usual. The 
realization of how the world looked on this young 
fellow he had come to love had been driven in 
upon him. There could be no mistaking it; and 
as he reasoned the situation out, he recognized 
the attitude of men as the only logical thing to 
expect. 

With his quietness came a new tenderness, n 

192 



THE CANDLE BURNS 193 

deeper devotion. The two sat, one night, listen 
ing to the drawing of the stove and the whip 
of the wind as it sucked down the gulch. 
The candle burned steadily in its bottle. Jed 
watched it a long time, and, still gazing at the 
steady flame, he said, as though unconscious that 
thoughts found vocal expression: "Th candle s 
burnin bright, VB." 

The other looked slowly around at it and 
smiled. 

"Yes, Jed; it surely burns bright." 

At the instant an unusually vicious gust of 
wind rattled the windows and a vagrant draft 
caught the flame of the taper, bending it low, 
dulling its orange. 

"But yet sometimes," the younger man went 
on, "something comes along something that 
makes it flicker that takes some of the assur 
ance from it." 

Jed had started in his chair as the flame bowed 
before the draft. 

"But it You ain t been flickerin lately, 
have you?" he asked, with a look in the old eyea 
that was beseeching. 

Young VB rose and commenced to walk about 
thumbs hooked in his belt. 

"I don t know, Jed," he said. "That s th 
whole of it: I don t know. Sometimes I m gla<* 
I don t ; but other times I wish wish tha 
whatever is coming would come. I seem to bt. 
gaining; I can think of drink now without going 

13 



i 9 4 "I CONQUERED" 

crazy. Now and then it gets hold of me; but 
moving around and getting busy stifles it. Still, 
I know it s there. That s what counts. I know 
I ve had the habit, been dow r n and out, and 
there s no telling which way it s going to turn. 
If I could ever be sure of myself; if I could ever 
come right up against it, where I needed a drink, 
where I wanted it then, if I could refuse, 
I d be sure." 

He quickened his stride. 

"Seems to me you re worryin needless," Jed 
argued. "Don t you see, VB, this is th worst 
night we ve had; th worst wind. An yet it 
ain t blowed th candle out! It bends low an 
gets smoky, to be sure. But it always keeps 
on shinin !" 

"But when it bends low and gets smoky its 
resistance is lower," VB said. "It wouldn t 
take much at such a time to blow it out and let 
the darkness come in. You never can tell, Jed; 
you never can tell." 

Ten minutes later he added : Especially when 
you re afraid of yourself and dare n t hunt out 
a test." 

Another time they talked of the man that he 
had been before he came to Colt. They were 
riding the hills, the Captain snuggling close to the 
pinto pony Jed rode. The sun poured its light 
down on the white land. Far away, over on the 
divide, they could see huge spirals of snow picked 
up by the wind and carried along countless miles, 



GREAT MOMENTS 203 

black s head and laughed happily into the soft 
neck. 

"VB, you re a fool a silly fool!" he whis 
pered. 

But if it was so, if being a fool made him that 
happy, he never wanted to regain mental balance. 

It was a big evening for VB, perhaps the biggest 
of his life. Bob Thorpe and his family ate with 
the men. Democracy unalloyed was in his soul. 
He mingled with them not through condescension, 
but through desire, and his family maintained 
the same bearing. Not a cow-puncher in the 
country but who respected Mrs. Thorpe and 
Gail and would welcome an opportunity to fight 
for them. 

The men had finished their meal before VB 
and Jed entered. Mrs. Thorpe made excuses 
and went out, leaving the four alone. While 
Jed talked to her father, Gail, elbows on the 
table, chatted with VB, and Young VB could 
only stare at his plate and snatch a glance at 
her occasionally and wonder why it was that 
she so disturbed him. 

Later Bob took Jed into his office, and when 
Gail and VB were left alone the constraint be 
tween them became even more painful. Try as 
he would, the man could not bring his scattered 
wits together for coherent speech. Just being 
beside that girl after her long absence was intoxi 
cating, benumbing his mind, stifling in him all 
thought and action, creating a thralldom which 



204 "I CONQUERED" 

was at once agony and peace. An intuitive 
sensing of this helplessness had made him delay 
seeing her that evening; now that he was before 
her he never wanted to leave; he wanted only to 
sit and listen to her voice and watch the alert 
expressiveness of her face a mute, humble 
worshiper. 

And this attitude of his forced a reaction on 
the girl. At first she talked vivaciously, starting 
each new subject with an enthusiasm that seemed 
bound to draw him out, but when he remained 
dumb and helpless in spite of her best efforts 
to keep the conversation going, her flow of words 
lagged. Long, wordless intervals followed, and 
a flush came into the girl s cheeks, and she too 
found herself woefully self-conscious. She sought 
for the refuge of diversion. 

"Since you won t talk to me, Mr. VB," she 
said with an embarrassed laugh, "you are going 
to force me to play for you." 

"It isn t that I won t I can t," he stanr 
mered. "And please play." 

He sat back in his chair, relieved, and watched 
the fine sway of her body as she made the big v 
full-toned instrument give up its soul. Music, 
that not the tunes that most girls of his 
acquaintance had played for him; a St. Saens 
arrangement, a MacDowell sketch, a bit of Nevin, 
running from one theme into another, easily, 
naturally, grace everywhere, from the phrasing 
to the movements of her firm little shoulders. 



GREAT MOMENTS 205 

And VB found his self-possession returning, found 
that he was thinking evenly, sanely, under the 
quieting influence of this music. 

Then Gail paused, sitting silent before the 
keyboard, as though to herald a coming climax. 
She leaned closer over the instrument and struck 
into the somber strains of a composition of such 
grim power and beauty that it seemed to create 
for itself an oddly receptive attitude in the man, 
sensitizing his emotional nature to a point where 
its finest shades were brought out in detail. It 
went on and on through its various phases to 
the end, and on the heavy final chord the girl s 
hands dropped into her lap. For a moment she sat 
still bent toward the keyboard before turning to 
him. When she did face about her flush was gone. 
She was again mistress of the situation and said: 

"Well, are you ever going to tell me about 
yourself?" 

VB s brows were drawn, and his eyes closed, 
but before he opened them to look at her a 
peculiar smile came over his face. 

"That man Chopin, and his five-flat prelude 
he said, and stirred with a helpless little gesture 
of one hand as though no words could convey 
the appreciation he felt. 

"I wonder if you like that as well as I do?" 
she asked. 

He sat forward in his chair and looked hard at 
her. The constraint was wholly gone; he was 
seriously intent, thinking clearing, steadily now. 



2o6 "__I CONQUERED" 

"I used to hear it many times," he said slowly, 
"and each time I ve heard it, it has meant more 
to me. There s something about it, deep down, 
covered up by all those big tones, that I never 
could understand until now. I guess," he 
faltered, "I guess I ve never realized how much 
a man has to suffer before he can do a big thing 
like that. Something about this," -with a 
gesture of his one hand, "this house and these 
hills, and what I ve been through out here, and 
the way you play, helps me to understand what 
an accomplishment like that must have cost." 

She looked at him out of the blue eyes that had 
become so grave, and said: 

"I guess we all have to suffer to do big things; 
but did you ever think how much we have to 
suffer to appreciate big things?" 

And she went on talking in this strain with a 
low, even voice, talking for hours, it seemed, while 
VB listened and wondered at her breadth of view, 
her sympathy and understanding, 

She was no longer a little, sunny-haired girl, a 
bit of pretty down floating along through life. 
Before, he had looked on her as such; true, he 
had known her as sympathetic, balanced, with a 
keen appreciation of values. But her look, her 
tone, her insight into somber, grim truths came 
out with emphasis in the atmosphere created 
by that music, and to Young VB, Gail Thorpe 
had become a woman. 

A silence came, and they sat through it with 



GREAT MOMENTS 207 

that ease which comes only to those who are in 
harmony. No constraint now, no flushed faces, 
no awkward meeting of eyes. The new under 
standing which had come made even silence 
eloquent and satisfying. 

Then the talk commenced, slowly at first, 
gradually quickening. It was of many things - 
of her winter, of her days in the East, of her 
friends. And through it Gail took the lead, 
talking as few women had ever talked to him 
before; talking of personalities, yet deviating 
from them to deduce a principle here, apply a 
maxim there, and always showing her humanness 
by building the points about individuals and the 
circumstances which surround them. 

"Don t you ever get lonely here?" he asked 
abruptly, thinking that she must have moments 
of discontent in these mountains and with these 
people. 

"No. Why should I?" 

"Well, you ve been used to things of a different 
sort. It seems to be a little rough for a girl 
like you." 

"And why shouldn t a nicer community be 
too fine for a girl like me? " she countered. "I m 
of this country, you know. It s mine." 

"I hadn t thought of that. You re different 
from these people, and yet," he went on, "you re 
not like most women outside, either. You ve 
seemed to combine the best of the two extremes. 
You" 



208 "_I CONQUERED" 

He looked up to see her gazing at him with a 
light of triumph in her face. VB never knew, but 
it was that hour for which she had waited months, 
ever since the time when she declared to her 
father, with a welling admiration for the spirit 
he must have, that he who broke the Captain 
was a man. 

Here he was before her, talking personalities, 
analyzing her! Four months before he would 
not even linger to say good-by! Surely the spell 
of her womanhood was on him. 

"Oh!" she cried, bringing her hands together. 
"So you ve been thinking about me what 
sort of a girl I am, have you?" 

Her eyes were aflame with the light of conquest. 

Then she said soberly: "Well, it s nice :o 
have people taking you seriously, anyhow." 

"That s all any of us want," he answered her; 
"to be taken seriously, and to be worthy of com 
manding such an attitude from the people about 
us. Sometimes we don t realize it until we ve 
thrown away our best chances and then well, 
maybe it s too late." 

On the words he felt a sudden misgiving, a 
sudden waning of faith. And, bringing confusion 
to his ears, was the low voice of this girl- woman 
saying: "I understand, VB, I understand. And 
it s never too late to mend!" 

Her hand lay in her lap, and almost uncon 
sciously he reached out for it. It came to meet 
his, frankly, quickly, and his frame was racked 



GREAT MOMENTS 209 

by a great, dry sob which came from the depths 
of his soul. 

"Oh, do you understand, Gail?" he whispered 
doubtfully. "Can you without knowing?" 

He had her hands in both his and strained 
forward, his face close to hers. The small, firm 
fingers clutched his hardened ones almost des 
perately and the blue eyes, so wide now, looking 
at him so earnestly, were filmed with tears. 

"I think I ve understood all along," she said, 
keeping her voice even at the cost of great effort. 
"I don t know it all the detail, I mean. I 
don t need to. I know you ve been fighting, 
VB, nobly, bravely. I know 

He rose to his feet and drew her up with him, 
pulling her close to him, closer and closer. One 
arm slipped down over her shoulders, uncer 
tainly, almost timidly. His face bent toward hers, 
slowly, tenderly, and she lifted her lips to meet it. 
It was the great moment of his life. Words were 
out of place; they would have been puerile, dis 
turbing sounds, a mockery instead of an agency 
to convey an idea of the strength of his emotions. 
He could feel her breath on his cheek, and for an 
instant he hung above her, delaying the kiss, 
trembling with the tremendous passion within him. 

And then he backed away from her awk 
wardly, threatening to fall, a limp hand raised 
toward the girl as though to warn her off. 

"Oh, Gail, forgive me!" he moaned. "Not 
yet! Great God, Gail, I m not worthy!" 

14 



210 "_I CONQUERED" 

His hoarse voice mounted and he stood backed 
against the far wall, fists clenched and stiff arms 
upraised. She took a faltering step toward him. 

Don t ! she begged. You are you - 

But he was gone into the night, banging the 
door behind him, while the girl leaned against 
her piano and let the tears come. 

He was not worthy! He loved; she knew he 
loved; she had come to meet that great binding, 
enveloping emotion willingly, frank with the joy 
of it, as became her fine nature. Then he had 
run from her, and for her own sake! All the 
ordeals he had been through in those last months 
were as brief, passing showers compared with the 
tempest that raged in him as he rode through the 
night; and it continued through the hours of light 
and of darkness for many days. Young VB was 
a man who feared his own love, and beyond that 
there can be no greater horror. 

He sought solace in the Captain, in driving 
himself toward the high mark he had set out to 
attain, but the ideal exemplified in the noble 
animal seemed more unattainable than ever and 
he wondered at times if the victory he sought 
were not humanly impossible. The knowledge 
that only by conquering himself could he keep 
his love for Gail Thorpe unsullied never left him, 
and beside it a companion haunter stalked through 
and through his consciousness the fact that 
they had declared themselves to each other. He 
was carrying not alone the responsibility of 



GREAT MOMENTS 211 

reclaiming his own life; he must also answer for 
the happiness of a woman! 

In those days came intervals when he wondered 
if this thing were really love. Might it not be 
something else a passing hysteria, a reaction 
from the inner battle? But he knew it was a 
love stronger than his will, stronger than his 
great tempter, stronger than the prompting to 
think of the future when he saw the Thorpe 
automobile coming up the road that spring day 
on the first trip the girl had made to the ranch 
that year. And under the immense truth of the 
realization he became bodily weak. 

Doubt of his strength, too, became more real, 
more insistent than it had ever been; its hateful 
power mingled with the thirst, and his heart 
was rent. What if that love should prove 
stronger than this discretion which he had re 
tained at such fearful cost, and drag him to her 
with the stigma he still bore and wreck her! 

Gail saw the constraint in him the instant she 
left the car, and though their handclasp was firm 
and long and understanding, it sobered her smile. 

She tried to start him talking on many things 
as they sat alone in the log house, but it was 
useless. He did not respond. So, turning to the 
subject that had always roused him, that she 
knew to be so close to his heart, she asked for 
the Captain. 

"In the corral," said VB, almost listlessly. 
"We ll go out." 



212 "__I CONQUERED" 

So they went together and looked through the 
gate at the great animal. The Captain stepped 
close and stretched his nose for Gail to rub, 
pushing gently against her hand in response. 

"Oh, you noble thing!" she whispered to him. 
"When you die, is all that strength of yours to 
be w r asted? Can t it be given to some one else?" 

She looked full on VB, then down at the ground, 
and said : "You ve never told me how you broke 
the Captain. No one in the country knows. 
They know that he almost killed you; that you 
fought him a whole week. But no one knows 
how. Won t won t you tell me? I want to 
know, because it was a real achievement and 
yours." 

He met her gaze when it turned upward, and 
for many heartbeats they stood so, looking at each 
other. Then VB s eyes wavered and he moved 
a step, leaning on the bars and staring moodily 
at the stallion. 

"It hurts to think about it," he said. "I 
don t like to remember. That is why I have never 
told any one. It hurt him and it hurt me." 

She waited through the silence that followed 
Jor him to go on. 

"I ve worked and rubbed it and curried it, 
and nursed the hair to grow over the place. It 
tooks just like a cinch mark now like the mark 
of service. No one would ever notice. But it 
is n t a mark of labor. I marked the Captain - 
I had to do it had to make him understand 



GREAT MOMENTS 213 

me. It laid his side open, and all the nursing, 
all the care I could give would n t make up for 
it. It s there. The Captain knows it; so do I." 

She followed his gaze to the little rough spot 
far down on the sleek side. 

"All wild things have to be broken," she said. 
"None of them ever become tame of their own 
volition. And in the breaking a mark is invari 
ably left. The memory hurts, but the mark 
means nothing of itself, once it is healed. Don t 
you realize that? 

"We all bear marks. The marks of our envi 
ronment, the marks of our friends, the marks of 
those we we love. Some of them hurt for a 
time, but in the end it is all good. Don t you 
believe that? We see those who are very dear 
to us suffer, and it marks us; sometimes just 
loving leaves its mark. But those are the 
greatest things in the world. They re sacred. 

"The marks on a woman who goes through 
fire for a man, say ; the marks of a a mother. 
They hurt, but in the end they make the bond 
tighter, more holy." 

She waited. Then asked again: "Don t you 
believe that?" 

After a long pause VB answered in a peculiarly 
bitter voice: "I wish I knew what I believe 
if I do believe!" 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE LIE 

VB S eyes burned after Gail as she drove away. 
He followed the car in its flight until it 
disappeared over the hump in the road ; then con 
tinued staring in that direction with eyes that 
did not see that merely burned like his throat. 

Jed came up the gulch with a load of wood, 
and VB still stood by the gate. 

"I never can get used to these here city ways," 
he grumbled, "no more n can these ponies." 

VB noticed casually that a tug had been broken 
and was patched with rope. 

"Runaway?" he asked, scarcely conscious of 
putting the question. 

"Oh, Bob Thorpe s girl come drivin her auto 
mobile along fit to ram straight through kingdom 
come, an don t turn out till she gets so close I 
thought we was done for ; to be sure, I did. Peter, 
here, took a jump an busted a tug." He looked 
keenly at VB. "Funny!" he remarked. "She 
did n t see me, I know. An she looked as if 
she d been cryin !" 

He could not know the added torture those 
words carried to the heart of the young fellow 
battling there silently, covering up his agony, 
trying to appear at ease. 

214 



THE LIE 215 

For the thirst had returned with manifold 
force, augmenting those other agonies which 
racked him. All former ordeals were forgotten 
before the fury of this assault. By the need of 
stimulant he was subjected to every fiendish 
whim of singing nerves; from knowing that in 
him was a love which must be killed to save a 
woman from sacrifice arose a torment that reached 
into his very vitals. 

The glands of his mouth stopped functioning, 
and it seemed as though only one thing would 
take the cursed dryness from his tongue and lips. 
His fingers would not be still; they kept plucking 
and reaching out for that hidden chord which 
would draw him back to himself, or on down into 
the depths somehow, he did not care which. 
Anything to be out of that killing uncertainty! 

As he had gained in strength during those 
months, so it now seemed had the thirst grown. 
It battered down his spirit, whipped it to a pulp, 
and dragged it through the sloughs of doubt and 
despair. His will did he have a will ? He 
did not know; nor did he seem to care. 

It had come the slipping backward. He 
had battled well, but now he could feel himself 
going, little by little, weakening, fighting out 
wardly but at heart knowing the futility of it 
all. And going because of Gail Thorpe! "I 
can t put this mark on her!" he moaned against 
the Captain s neck. "She said it that even 
those we love must bear the mark. And she 



216 "_I CONQUERED" 

said it was all good. She was wrong, wrong! 
Such a thing can t be good! 

"Suppose I did keep above it, was sure of my 
self for a time in a sham way, would n t it only be 
running the risk of a greater disaster? Would n t 
it surely come some time? Would n t it, if - 

"And then it would kill her, too!" 

He hammered the Captain s shoulder with his 
clenched fist and the great stallion snuggled his 
cheek closer to the man, trying to understand, 
trying to comfort. 

Then would come moments when his will 
rallied and Young VB fought with the ferocity 
of a jungle cat, walking back and forth across the 
corral, talking to the Captain, condemning his 
weaker self, gesticulating, promising. At those 
times he doubted whether it was so much the 
actual thirst that tore him as it was wondering 
if he could be worthy of her. Then the old 
desire would come again, in an engulfing wave, 
and his fighting would become empty words. 

Jed, who had ridden up the gulch to look after 
a gap in the fence, returned at dusk. As he 
watched VB feed the Captain he saw in the gloom 
the straining of the boy s face; heard him talk 
to the stallion piteously; and the old man s lips 
framed silent words. 

"If it s that girl," he declared, shaking his 
fist at the skies "if it s that girl, she ought 
to be ought to be spanked. An if it s th 
wantin of whisky, God pity th boy!" 



THE LIE 217 

Supper was a curious affair. VB tried to help 
in the preparation but spoiled everything he 
touched, so far removed was his mind from the 
work of his hands. Jed ate alone. VB sat 
down, but could not touch the food offered. He 
gulped coffee so steaming hot that Jed cried aloud 
a warning. 

"Burned?" scoffed VB. "Burned by that 
stuff? Jed, you don t know what burning is!" 

He got to his feet and paced the floor, one hand 
pressed against his throat. 

The boy sat down twice again and drank 
from the cup the old man kept filled, but his lips 
rebelled at food; his hands would not carry it 
from the plate. 

Once Jed rose and tried to restrain the pacing. 

"VB, boy," he implored, "set down an take 
it easy. Please do! It s been bad before, you 
know, but it s always turned out good in th end. 
It will this time same as always. Just 

"Don t, Jed." He spoke weakly, averting his 
white face and pushing the old man away gently 
with trembling hands. "You don t understand; 
you don t understand!" 

For the first time he was beyond comfort from 
the little old man who had showed him the lighted 
way, who had encouraged and comforted and. 
held faith in him. 

After a while a calm fell on VB and he stopped 
his walking, helped with the work, and then sat, 
still and white, in his chair. Jed watched him 



ai8 "_I CONQUERED" 

narrowly and comfort came to the old soul, for 
he believed the boy had won another fight over 
the old foe; was so sure of it that he whistled as 
he prepared for the night. 

The candle burned on, low against the neck 
of the bottle, but still bright and steady. VB 
watched it, fascinated, thought tagging thought 
through his mind. Then a tremor shot through 
his body. 

"Jed," he said in a voice that was strained but 
even, "let s play a little pitch, won t you?" 

It was his last hope, the last attempt to divert 
the attack on his will and bolster his waning forces. 
His nerves jumped and cringed and quivered, but 
outwardly he was calm, his face drawn to mask 
the torture. 

Jed, aroused, rubbed his sleepy eyes and lighted 
his pipe. He put on his steel-rimmed spectacles 
and took down the greasy, cornerless deck of 
cards to shuffle them slowly, with method, as 
though it were a rite. 

VB sat motionless and a little limp in his chair, 
too far from the table for comfortable playing. 
Jed peered at him over his glasses. 

"You might get th coffee beans," he said, with 
a great yawn. 

When the other did not answer he said again: 
"You might get th coffee beans, VB. Sleepy?" 

The young chap arose then to follow the sug 
gestion, but ignored the query. He went to the 
cupboard and brought back a handful of the 



THE LIE 219 

beans, the cowman s poker chips. His hand was 
waiting for him. 

"Good deal?" Jed asked. 

VB shook his head. "Not better than a 
couple." 

"O-ho, I m better off!" and Jed slammed 
down the ace of hearts. 

VB leaned low and played the four-spot, almost 
viciously, gritting his teeth to force his mind into 
the game. It rebelled, told him the uselessness 
of such things, the hopelessness before him, tried 
to play on the ajidness of his throat. But for 
the moment his will was strong and he followed 
the game as though gambling for a life. 

Suddenly the thought surged through him 
that he was gambling for a life his own life, 
and possibly for a woman s life! 

Jed made his points, and again, on his own bid, 
he swept up the coffee counters. Then he took 
off his glasses and laid them aside with another 
yawn. 

VB wanted to cry aloud to him to keep on 
playing ; he wanted to let Jed Avery know all 
that the simple, foolish little game of cards meant 
to him. But somehow his waning faith had 
taken with it the power to confide. 

Jed made four inexcusable blunders in playing 
that hand, and each time his muttered apologies 
became shorter. When the hand was over and 
he had won a point he did not notice that the boy 
failed to give him the counter. 



220 "_I CONQUERED" 

VB dealt, picked up his cards, and waited for 
the bid. But Jed s chin was on his breast, one 
hand lay loosely over the scattered cards before 
him; the other hung at his side limply. His 
breath came and went regularly. Sleep had 
stolen in on VB s final stand! 

Oh, if Jed Avery had only known! If his 
kindly old heart had only read VB better, divining 
the difference between calm and peace! For a 
long time VB looked at the old man, his breath 
gradually quickening, the flame in his eyes grow 
ing sharper, more keen, as the consuming fire in 
him ate away the last barriers of resistance. 
Once his gaze went to the candle, burning so low 
against the bottle, yet so brightly, its molten 
wax running dow r n and adding to the incrustment. 
He stared wanly at the bright little beacon and 
shook his head, terror wiping out the vestiges 
of a smile. 

Action! That was what he wanted! Action! 
He must move or lose his mind and babble and 
scream ! He must move and move rapidly 
as rapidly as the rush of those thoughts through 
his inflamed mind. 

He trembled in every limb as he sat there, 
realizing the need for bodily activity. 

And yet, guilefully, craftily, softly, that voice 
down within him told that action could be of 
only one sort, could take him only in one direc 
tion. It whined and wheedled and gave him a 
cowardly assurance, made him lie in his own 



THE LIE 221 

thoughts; made him cautious in his sneaking 
determination, for he knew any question Jed 
night ask would bring frenzy. 

VB rose, slowly, carefully, so that there might 
be no creaking of the boots or scraping of chair 
legs. He picked up his hat, his muffler, his 
jumper, and moved stealthily toward the door, 
opened it inch by inch, and shut it behind him 
quickly, silently, cutting off the draft of night 
air for such a thing might be as disastrous as 
a cry aloud. 

The moon rode above the ridge and the air 
had lost its winter s edge. It was mild, but with 
the tang of mountain nights. It was quiet below, 
but as he stood in the open, pulling on his jumper, 
he heard the stirring of wind on the points above. 
It was a soughing, the sort of wind that makes stock 
uneasy; and VB caught that disquieting vibration. 

He stepped out from the cabin and a soft call 
ing from the corral reached him. 

"Coming, Captain, coming," he answered. 

And with a guilty glance behind him he felt 
for the gun nestling against his side. His jaw- 
muscles tightened as he assured himself it was 
fastened there securely. 

The Captain was waiting at the gate. VB let 
it swing open, then turned and walked toward the 
saddle rack. The horse followed closely, ears up 
as though in wonder at this procedure. 

"It s all right, Captain," VB whispered as he 
threw on the saddle blanket. As he drew the 



222 "_I CONQUERED" 

cinch tight he muttered: "Or else all wrong ! " 

Action, action! his body begged. He must 
have it; nothing else would suffice! He wanted 
to fly along, skimming the tops of those ghost 
bushes, ripping through the night, feeling the 
ripple of wind on that throat, the cooling currents 
of air against those hammering temples. 

And VB knew it was a lie ! A rank, deliberate, 
hypocritical lie! He knew what that action 
meant, he knew in what direction it would take 
him. He knew; he knew! 

"Oh, Captain!" he sobbed, drawing the bridled 
head against his chest. "You know what it is 
to fight! You know what it is to yield! But 
the yielding did n t break you, boy! It could n t. 
You were too big, too great to be broken; they 
could only bend and 

With a breath of nervous rage he was in the 
saddle. The Captain s feet rattled on the hard 
ground with impatience. An instant VB hesi 
tated, gathering the reins, separating them from 
the strands of thick mane. Then, leaning low, 
uttering a throaty wail, he gave the Captain his 
head and into the veiled night they bolted. 

The cattle were coming on him, and he was 
powerless to move! They were bunched, run 
ning shoulder to shoulder, and his bed was in 
their path ! Jed tried to raise his arms and could 
barely move them; his legs rebelled. The stam 
pede was roaring at him! Oh, the rumble of 



THE LIE 223 

those hoofs, those sharp, cloven, blind, merciless 
hoofs, that would mangle and tear and trample! 

Jed Avery awoke with a start. He was on his 
feet in the middle of the floor before conscious 
ness came, gasping quickly at the horror of his 
dream, his excited heart racing! 

But it was no stampede. Running hoofs, but 
no stampede! He stumbled to the door and 
flung it open. His old eyes caught the flash of 
a lean, dark object as it raced across the door- 
yard straight at the gate, never pausing, never 
hesitating, and taking the bars with a sturdy 
leap that identified the horse instantly. 

"VB!" 

He called the name shrilly into the night, but 
his cry was drowned to the rider s ears, for the 
Captain s hoofs had caught ground again and 
were spurning it viciously as he clawed for the 
speed, the action, that was to satisfy the outraged 
nerves of his master! 

That lie! It was not the action that would 
satisfy. The flight was only an accessory, an 
agency that would transport VB to the scene 
of the renunciation of all that for which he had 
battled through those long months. 

For a long moment Jed stood in the doorway 
as he had poised at first, stiff, rigid. The sounds 
of the rushing horse diminuendoed quickly and 
became only a murmur in the night. Jed Avery s 
figure lost its tensity, went slack, and he leaned 
limply against the door frame. 



224 "I CONQUERED" 

"He s gone!" he moaned. "He s gone! It s 
broke in on him Oh, VB, I m afraid it has! 
No good takes you south at this time, after 
th spell you ve had!" 

He slammed the door shut and turned back 
into the room. Unsteady feet took him to his 
chair, and he settled into it heavily, leaning against 
the table, his eyes registering the sight of no 
objects. 

"He was fightin harder n ever," he whispered 
dryly, "an" I set here sleepin . To be sure, I 
wasn t on hand when VB needed me most!" 

The ending of his self-accusation was almost 
a sob, and his head dropped forward. He sat 
like that for an hour. The fire in the stove went 
out, and the cool of night penetrated the log walls 
of the cabin. He gazed unblinkingly at the 
floor; now and then his lips formed soundlesf 
words. 

The candle, burning low, fed the flame too 
fiercely with the last bit of itself. The neck of 
the bottle was a globule of molten wax in which 
the short wick swam. The flame had become 
larger, but it was dead and the smoke rose thickly 
from its heavy edges. The grease seemed to be 
disturbed. It quivered, steadied, then settled. 
The flame slipped down the neck of the bottle and 
was snuffed out by the confines of the thing. 

Jed A very drew a long, quivering breath, d 
breath of horror. He turned his face toward 
the place where the light had been, hoping that 



THE LIE 225 

his sight had failed. Then he reached out and 
found the bottle. His hard fingers ran over it, 
felt the empty neck, paused, and drew away as 
though it were an infectious thing. 

The old man sagged forward to the table, his 
face in his arms. 



15 



CHAPTER XIX 

THROUGH THE NIGHT 

ON into the night went the Captain, bearing 
VB. Over the gate the bridle-rein drew 
against his neck and the big beast swung to 
the right, following the road southward, on down 
the gulch, on toward Ranger a fierceness in his 
rider s heart that was suicidal. 

All the bitterness VB had endured, from the 
stinging torrent his father turned upon him back 
in New York to the flat realization that to let 
himself love Gail Thorpe might bring him into 
worse hells, surged up into his throat and mingled 
with the craving there. It seeped through into 
his mind, perverted his thoughts, stamped down 
the optimism that had held him up, shattered 
what remnants of faith still remained. 

"Faster, Captain!" he cried. "Faster!" 

And the stallion responded, scudding through 
the blue moonlight with a speed that seemed 
beyond the power of flesh to attain. He shook 
his fine head and stretched out the long nose as 
though the very act of thrusting it farther would 
give more impetus to his thundering hoofs. 

VB sat erect in the saddle, a fierce delight 
aroused by the speed running through his veins 
like fire and, reaching to his throat, adding to 

226 



THROUGH THE NIGHT 227 

the scorching. He swung his right hand rhyth 
mically, keeping time to the steady roll of the 
stallion s feet. The wind tore at him, vibrating 
his hat brim, whipping the long muffler out from 
his neck, and he shook his head against it. 

He was free at last! Free after those months 
of doubt, of foolish fighting! He was answering 
the call that came from the depths of his true 
self that hidden self the call of flesh that 
needs aid! He cared not for the morrow, for 
the stretching future. His one thought was on 
the now on the rankling, eating, festering 
moment that needed only one thing to be wiped 
out forever. 

And always, in the back of his mind, was the 
picture of Gail Thorpe as she had turned from 
him that afternoon. It loomed large and larger 
as he tore on to the south through the solitude, 
ripping his way through the cool murk. 

"I won t put my mark on her!" he cried, and 
whipped the Captain s flanks with his heavy 
hat, the thought setting his heart flaming. "I 
won t!" he cried. And again, "I won t!" 

He was riding down into his particular depths 
so to stultify himself that it would be impossible 
to risk that woman s happiness against the chance 
that some time, some day, he would go down, 
loving her, making her know he loved her, but 
fighting without gain. That, surely, is one sort 
of love, faulty though the engendering spirit 
may be. 



228 "_I CONQUERED" 

The whipping with the hat sent the horse on 
to still greater endeavor. A slight weariness 
commenced to show in the ducking of his head 
with every stride, but he did not slacken his pace. 
His ears were still set stiffly forward, flipping 
back, one after the other, for word from his rider; 
the spurn of his feet was still sharp and clear 
and unfaltering; the spirit in that rippling, drip 
ping body still ran high. 

And closing his eyes, drinking the night air 
through his mouth in great gulps, VB let the 
animal carry him on and on, yet backward, 
back into the face of all that fighting he had 
summoned, doubling on his own tracks, slipping 
so easily down the way he had blazed upward 
with awful sacrifice and hardship. 

An hour two nine eleven the Cap 
tain might have been running so a week, and VB 
would not have known. His mind was not on 
time, not on his horse. He had ceased to think 
beyond the recognition of a craving, a craving 
that he did not fight but encouraged, nursed, 
teased for it was going to be satisfied ! 

The stallion s pace began to slacken. He 
wearied. The bellows lungs, the heart of steel, 
the legs of tireless sinew began to feel the strain 
of that long run. The run waned to a gallop, 
and the gallop to a trot. There his breathing 
becoming easier, he blew loudly from his nostrils 
as though to distend them farther and make 
way for the air he must have. 



THROUGH THE NIGHT 229 

VB realized this dully but his heeding of that 
devilish inner call had taken him so far from 
his more tender self, from his instinctive desire 
to love and understand, that he did not follow 
out his comprehension. 

"Go it, boy!" he muttered. "It s all I ll ask 
of you just this one run." 

And the Captain, dropping an ear back for 
the word, leaned to the task, resuming the 
steady, space-eating gallop mile after mile. All 
the way into Ranger they held that pace. In the 
last mile the stallion stumbled twice, but after 
both breaks in his stride ran on more swiftly 
for many yards, as though to make up to his 
master for the jolting the half falls gave him. 
He was a bit unsteady on those feet as he took 
the turn and dropped down the low bank into the 
river. They forded it in a shimmer of silver as 
the horse s legs threw out the black water to be 
frozen and burnished by the light of the moon. 
The stallion toiled up the far bank at a lagging 
trot, and on the flat VB pulled the panting animal 
down to a walk. 

Oh, VB, it was not too late then, had you only 
realized it! Your ideal was still there, more 
exemplary than ever before, but you could not 
recognize it through those eyes which saw only 
the red of a wrecking passion! You had drained 
to the last ounce of reserve the strength of that 
spirit you had so emulated, which had been as 
a shining light, an unfaltering candle in the 



23 o "__I CONQUERED" 

darkness. It was stripped bare before you as 
that splendid animal gulped between breaths. 
Could you have but seen! Could something 
only have made you see! But it was not to be. 

VB had forgotten the Captain. In the face 
of his wretched weakening the stallion became 
merely a conveyance, a convenience, a means for 
stifling the neurotic excitement within him. He 
forgot that this thing he rode represented his 
only achievement an achievement such as few 
men ever boast. 

He guided the stallion to a half-wrecked log 
house south of the road, dismounted, and stood 
a moment before the shack, his glittering eyes on 
the squares of light yonder under the rising hill. 
He heard a faint tinkling from the place, and a 
voice raised in laughter. 

As he watched, a mounted man passed between 
him and the yellow glare. In a moment he saw 
the man enter the saloon door. 

"Come, boy," he muttered, moving cautiously 
through the opening into the place. "You ll 
be warm in here. You ll cool off slowly." 

Then, in a burst of hysterical passion, he threw 
his arms about the stallion s head and drew it 
to him fiercely. 

"Oh, I won t be gone long, Captain!" he 
promised. "Not long just a little while. It s 
not the worst, Captain! I m not weakening!" 

Drunk with the indulgence of his nervous 
weakness, he lied glibly, knowing he lied, without 



THROUGH THE NIGHT 231 

object just to lie, to pervert life. And as the 
Captain s quick, hot breath penetrated his gar 
ments, VB drew the head still tighter. 

"You re all I ve got, Captain," he muttered, 
now in a trembling calm. "You 11 wait. I know 
that. I know what you will do better than I 
know anything else in the world better than 
I know what what / // do! Wait for me, boy 
wait right here!" 

His voice broke on the last word as he stumbled 
through the door and set off toward the building 
against the hill. He did not hear the Captain 
turn, walk as far as the door of the shack, and 
peer after him anxiously. Nor did he see the 
figure of a man halted in the road, watching him 
go across the flat, chaps flapping, brushing through 
the sage noisily. 

VB halted in the path of light, swaying the 
merest trifle from side to side as he pulled his 
chap belt in another hole and tried to still 
the twitching of his hands, the weakening of his 
knees. 

The tinkling he had heard became clear. He 
could see now. A Mexican squatted on his 
spurs, back against the wall, and twanged a 
fandango on a battered guitar. His hat was far 
back over his head, cigarette glowing in the corner 
of his mouth, gay blue muffler loose on his shoul 
ders. He hummed to the music, his voice rising 
now and then to float out into the night above 
the other sounds from the one room. 



232 "_I CONQUERED" 

The bar of rough boards, top covered with 
red oilcloth, stretched along one side. Black 
bottles flashed their high lights from a shelf 
behind it, above which hung an array of antlers. 
The bartender, broad Stetson shading his face, 
talked loudly, his hands wide apart on the bar and 
bearing much of his weight. Now and then he 
dropped his head to spit between his forearms. 

Three men in chaps lounged before the bar, 
talking. One, the tallest, talked with his head 
flung back and gestures that were a trifle too loose. 
The shortest looked into his face with a ceaseless, 
senseless smile, and giggled whenever the voice 
rose high or the gestures became unusually wild. 
The third, elbows on the oilcloth, head on his 
fists, neither joined in nor appeared to heed the 
conversation. 

Back in the room stood two tables, both 
covered with green cloth. One was unused; the 
other accommodated four men. Each of the 
quartet wore a hat drawn low over his face; each 
held cards. They seldom spoke; when they did, 
their voices were low. VB saw only their lips 
move. Their motions were like the words few 
and abrupt. When chips were counted it was 
with expertness; when they were shoved to the 
center of the table it was with finality. 

Near them, tilted against the wall in a wire- 
trussed chair, sat a sleeping man, hat on the floor. 

Two swinging oil lamps lighted the smoke- 
fogged air of the place, and their glow seemed 



THROUGH THE NIGHT 233 

to be diffused by it, idealizing everything, 
softening it 

Everything except the high lights from the 
bottles on the shelf. Those were stabs of searing 
brightness; they hurt VB s eyeballs. 

His gaze traveled back to the Mexican. The 
melody had drifted from the fandango into a 
swinging waltz song popular in the cities four 
years before. He whistled the air through his 
teeth. The cigarette was still between his lips. 
The face brought vague recollections to VB. 
Then he remembered that this was Julio, the 
Mexican who ran with Rhues. He belonged to 
Rhues, they had told him, body and soul. 

Thought of Rhues sent VB s right hand to 
his left side, up under the arm. He squeezed 
the gun that nestled there. 

Of a sudden, nausea came to the man who 
looked in. It was not caused by fear of Rhues 
of the possibility of an encounter. The poignant 
fumes that came from the open door stirred it, 
and the sickness was that of a man who sees his 
great prize melt away. 

For the moment VB wanted to rebel. He 
tore his eyes from those glittering bottles; tried 
to stop his breathing that treacherous nostrils 
might not inhale those odors. 

But it was useless his feet would not carry 
him away. He knew he must move, move soon, 
and though he now cried out in his heart against 
it he knew which way his feet would carry him. 



2 34 "I CONQUERED" 

He half turned his body and looked back 
toward the shack where the Captain waited, and 
a tightening came in his throat to mingle with 
the rapaciousness there. 

"Just a little while, Captain," he whispered, 
feeling childishly that the horse would hear the 
words and understand. "Just a little while - 
I m just just going to take a little hand in the 
card game." 

And as the Mexican finished his waltz with a 
rip of the thumb clear across the six strings of 
his instrument, Young VB put a foot on the 
threshold of the saloon and slowly drew himself 
to his full height in the doorway. Framed by 
darkness he stood there, thumbs in his belt, 
mouth in a grim line, hat down to hide the pallor 
of his cheeks, the torment in his eyes; his shoulders 
were braced back in resolution, but his knees, 
inside his generous chaps, trembled. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE LAST STAND 

T^VEN the vibrating guitar strings seemed to be 
-* stilled suddenly. For VB, an abrupt hush 
crushed down on the scene. He felt the eyes as, 
pair after pair, they followed those of the Mexican 
and gazed at him; even the man slumbering in 
his chair awoke, raised his head, and stared at 
him sleepily. He stood in the doorway, leaning 
lightly against the logs, returning each gaze in 
turn. 

"Hello, VB!" one of the trio before the bar 
said. 

"Hello, Tom!" answered the newcomer - 
and stepped into the room. 

Then what hush had fallen real or imagi 
nary lifted and the talk went on, the game 
progressed. 

Perhaps the talk was not fully sincere, possibly 
the thoughts of the speakers were not always on 
their words, for every man in the place stole 
glances at the tall young fellow as he moved 
slowly about the room. 

They had known for months the fight that was 
going on up there on Jed Avery s ranch. They 
knew that the man who had mastered the Captain 
and set his name forever in the green annals of 

235 



236 "_I CONQUERED" 

the country had been fighting to command him 
self against the attacks of the stuff they peddled 
here in the saloon at Ranger. They knew how 
he had fought off temptation, avoided contact 
with whisky and now, late at night, he had 
walked slowly into the heart of the magnet that 
had exerted such an influence on him. So they 
watched VB as he moved about. 

The sharp lights from those black bottles! 
Like snakes eyes, they commanded his and, 
when this power had been exerted, they seemed 
to stab the brain that directed sight at them. In 
the first few steps across the rough floor VB 
answered their call to look a half dozen times, 
and after each turning of his gaze jerked his eyes 
away in pain. 

He did not turn toward the bar rather, kept 
close to the wall, passing so near the squatting 
Mexican that the flap of his chaps brushed the 
other s knees. The Greaser picked at the strings 
of his instrument aimlessly, striking unrelated 
chords, tinkling on a single string; then came a 
few bars from the fandango. His head was 
tilted to one side and a glittering eye followed the 
slow-moving figure of Young VB. 

By the time the newcomer was halfway toward 
the poker table the Mexican got to his feet, slid 
ing his back slowly up the wall until he reached a 
standing position. Then, for the first time taking 
his eyes from VB, he stepped lightly toward the 
door. After a final tinkling chord had fallen he 



THE LAST STAND 237 

disappeared, guitar slung under one arm, walking 
slowly away from the lighted place. But when 
he was beyond sight of those within, he ran. 

VB went on, past the just-awakened man in 
his chair, close to the poker table. The players 
looked up again, first one, with a word of recog 
nition; then two spoke at once, and after he had 
raked in the pot the fourth nodded with a wel 
coming grunt. 

The young fellow leaned a shoulder against the 
log wall and watched the game. That is, he 
looked at it. But continually his fevered memory 
retained a vision of those glares from the bottles. 

His mind again played crazy tricks, as it 
always did when the thirst clamored loudly. 
The rattle of the chips sounded like ice in glasses, 
and he turned his head quickly toward the bar, 
following the imaginary sound. 

The four men there were just drinking. He 
followed their movements with wild eyes. The 
bartender lifted his glass to the level of his fore 
head in salute, then drained its contents slowly, 
steadily, every movement from the lifting to 
the setting down of the empty glass smooth, 
deliberate even polished the movements of 
a professedly artful drinker. The silent man 
offered no good word merely lifted the glass 
and drank, tipping his head but slightly, empty 
ing the glass with an uneven twisting of the 
wrist, something like an exaggerated tremble. 
The short man tossed his drink off by elevating 



238 "_I CONQUERED" 

the glass quickly to his lips and throwing his 
head back with a jerk to empty it into his mouth. 
The tall man, who talked loudly and motioned 
much, waved his drink through the air to empha 
size a declaration, and with an uncertain swoop 
directed it to his lips. He leaned backward 
from the hips to drink, and the movement made 
him reel and grasp the bar for support. 

As he had followed the movements of those 
men, so VB followed the course of the stuff they 
drank down their throats; in imagination, down 
his throat, until it hit upon and glossed over that 
spot which wailed for soothing! 

Oh, how he wanted it! Still, all those months 
of battling had not been without result. The 
rigid fight he had made carried him on, even in 
face of his resolve to yield, and he delayed, put 
it off just a moment lying to himself ! 

He turned back to the game. 

"Sit in, VB?" one of the players asked. 

"Don t mind." 

He dragged another chair to the table, unbut 
toned and cast off his jumper, gave the hat 
another low tug, and tossed a yellow-backed 
twenty to the table. The chips were shoved 
toward him. 

"Jacks or better," the dealer said, and shot the 
cards about the board. 

VB won a pot. He bet eagerly on the next and 
lost. Then he won again. The game interested 
him for the moment. 



THE LAST STAND 239 

"Oh, just one more HT drink!" cried the 
garrulous cowboy at the bar. 

VB had passed the opening, went in later, drew 
.three cards, failed to help his tens, and hiked the 
bet Called, he dropped the hand; and the 
winner, showing aces up, stared at the boy who 
had bet against openers on lone tens. He noticed 
that VB s hands trembled, and he wondered. He 
could not feel VB s throat. Nor could he hear 
the careless plea of the sotted rider for just one 
more drink ringing in VB s burning brain. 

A big pot was played and the winner, made 
happy, said: 

"Well, I ll buy a drink." 

The bartender, hearing, came to the table. 

"What 11 it be?" he asked. 

"Whisky," said the man on VB s right, and 
the word went around the circle. 

Then a moment s pause, while the cards 
fluttered out. 

"VB?" 

There it was, reaching out for him, holding out 
its tentacles that ceased to appear as such and 
became soft, inviting arms. It was that for 
which he had ridden through the night; it was 
that against which he had fought month after 
month until, this night, he realized that a fight 
was useless; it was the one solace left him, for 
indirectly it had brought into his life the glorious 
thing and wiped it out again. So why hold 
off? Why refuse? 



240 "__I CONQUERED" 

But those months of fighting! He could not 
overcome that impetus which his subjective self 
had received from the struggle. Consciously he 
wanted the stuff oh, how he wanted it ! But 
deep in him something 

"Not now thanks," he managed to mutter, 
and clasped his cards tightly. 

The bartender turned away, rubbing his chin 
with one finger, as though perplexed. VB dealt, 
and with lightning agility. He even broke in 
on the silence of the playing with senseless chatter 
when the drinks were brought. He held his 
cards high that he might not see the glasses, and 
was glad that the men did not drink at once. 
Nor did they drink for many moments. The 
opener was raised twice; few cards were drawn. 
A check passed one man, the next bet, the next 
raised, and VB, the deal, came in. 

The opener raised again and the bartender, 
seeing, stepped across to watch. The drowsy 
lounger, sensing the drift of the game, rose to 
look on. 

VB dropped out. He held threes, but felt 
that they had no place in that game. The 
betting went on and on, up and up, three men 
bent on raising, the fourth following, intent on 
having a look, anyhow. VB threw his cards 
down and dropped his hands loosely on the table. 
The back of his right hand touched a cold object. 
He looked down quickly. It was resting against 
a whisky glass. 



THE LAST STAND 241 

"And ten more," a player said. 

"Ten and another ten." More chips rattled 
into the pile. 

His hand stole back and hot fingers reached 
out to touch with sensitive tips that cool surface. 
His nostrils worked to catch the scent of the 
stuff. His hand was around the glass. 

"I m staying." 

"You are for five more." 

VB s fingers tightened about the thing, squeezed 
it in the palm of his hand. It had felt cool at 
first; now it was like fire. The muscles of that 
arm strove to lift it. His inner mind struggled, 
declared against the intention, weakened, yielded, 
and 

"Well, I m through. Fight it out." 

The man at VB s right dropped his cards in 
disgust and with a quick movement reached for 
his drink. 

His nervous, hot hand closed on VB s and 
their surprised glances met. 

"Excuse me," muttered VB. 

"Sure!" said the other, surly over his lost 
stake, and gulped down the whisky. 

Two of the players went broke in that pot. 
The fourth had a scant remnant of his original 
stack left, and VB was loser. The two who had 
failed shoved back their hats and yawned, almost 
simultaneously. 

"How about it?" asked the winner, stacking 
his chips. 
16 



242 "_I CONQUERED" 

"I m satisfied," said the man at VB s right. 

"And VB?" 

"Here, too!" 

The boy sat back in his chair with a long- 
drawn breath after shoving his chips across to 
be cashed. He pushed his hat back for the first 
time, and a man across the table stared hard as 
he saw the harried face. The others were busy, 
cashing in. 

"Just get in, VB?" some one asked. 

He heard the question through a tumult. 
His muscles had already contracted in the first 
movement of rising; his will already directed his 
feet across the room to the bar to answer the call 
of those searching bottle eyes. Inwardly he 
raged at himself for holding off so long, for wasting 
those months, for letting that other new thing 
come into his life only to be torn away again; 
when it all meant mere delay, a drawing out of 
suffering! Only half consciously he framed the 
answer : 

"Yes, I rode down to-night." 

"Coin on out?" 

"What?" he asked, forcing his mind to give 
heed to the other. 

"Goin on out, or goin to hang around a while? " 

"I don t know." The boy got to his feet, and 
the reply was given with rare bitterness. "I 
don t know," he said again, voice mounting. "I 
may go out and I may not. I may hang 
around a while, and it may n t take long. I m 



THE LAST STAND 243 

here to finish something I started a long time 
ago, something that I ve been putting off. I m 
going to put a stop to a lying, hypocritical exist 
ence. I m " 

He broke off thickly and moved away from the 
table. 

No imagination created a hush this time. On 
his words the counting of chips ceased. They 
looked at him, seeing utter desperation, and not 
understanding. 

A face outside that had been pressed close 
to a window was lowered, darkness hiding the 
glitter of green eyes and the leering smile of tri 
umph. A figure slunk along carefully to the 
corner of the building and joined two others. 

It was his chance! Rhues was out to get his 
man this moonlight night, and there was now 
no danger. Young VB w r as no longer afraid to 
take a drink. He would give up his fight, give 
up his hard -wrung freedom, and when drunken 
men go down, shot in a quarrel, there is always 
cause. He had him now! 

VB lurched across the room toward the bar. 
In mid-floor he paused, turned, and faced those 
at the poker table. 

"Don t mistake me," he said with a grin. 
"Don t think I m talking against any man in the 
country. It s myself, boys just me. I m the 
liar, the hypocrite. I ve tried to lie myself into 
being what I never can be. I ve come out here 
among you to go by the name of the outfit I ride 



244 -I CONQUERED" 

for. You don t know me, don t even know my 
name, say nothing of my own rotten self. Well, 
you re going to know me as I am." 

He swung around to face the bar. The bar 
tender pulled nervously on his mustache. 

"What 11 it be, VB?" he asked, surprised 
knowledge sending the professional question to 
his lips. 

"The first thing you come to," the boy mut 
tered, and grasped the bar for support. 



CHAPTER XXI 

GUNS CRASH 

in the shadow of the building three men 
huddled close together, talking in whispers 
Rhues, Matson, and the Mexican. Rhues 
had watched the progress of the poker game, 
waiting the chance he had tried to seek out ever 
since that day up at Avery s when he had been 
beaten down by the flailing fists of that tall 
young tenderfoot. He had seen VB start for the 
bar; he knew the hour had struck. 

"We ve got him!" he whispered. "He won t 
get away this time. They won t be no mistakes." 

"S-s-s-s!" the Greaser warned. 

"Aw, nobody 11 ever know," Rhues scoffed 
in an undertone. "They ll never know that 
unless you spill. An if you do it ll mean 
three of us to th gallows, unless we re lynched 
first!" 

Silence a moment, and they heard VB s voice 
raised. Then Rhues whispered his quick plans. 

"Take it easy," he warned in conclusion. 
"Don t start nothin . Let him git drunk; then 
he ll do th startin an it ll be easy." 

Inside a bottle was thumped on the bar, a 
glass beside it. Feverishly VB reached for both, 
lifting the glass with uncertain hand, tilting the 

245 



246 "_I CONQUERED" 

bottle from the bar, not trusting his quaking 
muscles to raise it. The neck touched the glass 
with a dull clink; the mouth of the bottle gurgled 
greedily as the first of the liquor ran out for 
all the world as if it had waited these months 
for that chuckle of triumph. 

And then that romanticism of youth came to 
the surface of his seething thoughts again. It 
would be the closing of a chapter, that drink. 
It was for her sake he would lift it to his lips. 
He wanted to bid her a last, bitter farewell. 
She was over there, far across the hills, sleeping 
and dreaming with her golden hair over 
there in the northeast. He laughed harshly, set 
the bottle back on the bar, and turned his face 
in her direction. 

Those who watched from the other end of the 
room saw him turn his head unsteadily; saw the 
sudden tenseness which spread through his frame, 
stiffening those faltering knees. He turned slowly 
toward the door and thrust his face forward as 
though to study and make certain that he saw 
rightly. 

Like a rush of fire the realization swept through 
him. A man stood there in the moonlight, and 
the sheen from the heavens was caught on the 
dull barrel of a gun in his hand. 

VB was covered, and he knew by whom! The 
man who had fought less than half a dozen times 
in his life, and then with bare fists, was the object 
of a trained gun hand. He could almost see the 



GUNS CRASH 247 

glitter of the green eyes that were staring at him. 

Instinct should have told him to spring to one 
side; a leap right or left would have carried him 
out of range, but instinct had been warped by all 
those months of struggle. 

He was on the brink, at the point of losing his 
balance; but the battling spirit within him still 
throbbed, though his frenzy, his lack of faith, 
had nearly killed it. Now the thing came alive 
pulsing, bare ! 

An instant before he had not cared what 
happened. Now he did, and the end was not 
the only thing in view; the means counted with 
Young VB. 

He did not jump for shelter. He roared his 
rage as he prepared to stand and fight. 

The others understood before his hand reached 
his shirt front. The bartender dropped behind 
the fixture and the others in the room sprang 
behind the barrels and stove. By the time VB s 
hand had clasped the neck of his shirt he stood 
alone. When the vicious yank he gave the gar 
ment ripped it open from throat halfway to waist 
the first belch of fire came from that gun out there. 

The bottle on the bar exploded, fine bits of 
glass shooting to the far corners of the room. 

Come on you yellow 

VB s fingers found the butt of his Colt, closed 
and yanked. It came from the holster, poised, 
muzzle upward, his thumb over the hammer. 
Possibly he stood thus a tenth part of a second, 



24 8 "__I CONQUERED" 

but while he waited for his eyes to focus well a 
generation seemed to parade past. He was 
hunted down by a crawling piece of vermin! 

A parallel sprang to his mind. While Rhues 
sought his body did not another viper seek his 
soul ? Was 

Then he made out the figure crouched low. 
The forty-five came down, and the room re 
sounded with its roar. He stood there, a green 
horn who had never handled a weapon in his 
life until the last year, giving battle to a gun 
fighter whose name was a synonym! 

Out of the moonlight came another flash, and 
before VB could answer the hunched figure had 
leaped from the area framed by the doorway. 

"You won t stand!" the boy cried, and strode 
across the room. 

"Don t be a fool! VB!" 

The bartender s warning might as well have 
been unheard. Straight for the open door went 
the boy, gun raised, coughing from the powder 
smoke. But the mustached man, though pan- 
derer by profession, revolted at unfairness; per 
haps it was through the boy s ignorance, but he 
knew VB walked only to become a target. 
Twice his gun roared from behind the bar and the 
two swinging lamps became scattered, tinkling 
fragments. 

VB seemed not to heed, not to notice that he 
was in darkness. He reached the door, put his 
left hand against the casing, and looked out. 



GUNS CRASH 249 

With lights behind he would have been riddled 
on the instant. But, looking from blackness to 
moonlight, he was invisible for the moment - 
but only for a moment. 

The stream of yellow stabbed at him again 
and Young VB, as though under the blow of a 
sledge, spun round and was flattened against the 
wall. 

His left breast seemed to be in flames. He 
reached for it, fired aimlessly with the other 
hand in the direction of his hidden foe, and let 
the gun clatter to the floor. 

He wondered if it were death that darkness. 
He felt the fanning of the wind, heard, dimly, 
its uneasy soughing. It was very dark. 

A movement and its consequent grip of pain 
brought him back. He saw then that a heavy 
cloud, wind driven, had blotted out the moon. 
In a frenzy he came alert! He was wounded I 
He had dropped his gun and they were waiting for 
him out there, somewhere; waiting to finish him! 

He could feel the smearing of blood across his 
chest as his clothing held it in. His legs com 
menced to tremble, from true physical weakness 
this time. 

And the Captain was waiting! 

That thought wiped out every other; he was 
possessed with it. He might be dying, but if 
he could only get to the Captain; if he could only 
feel that silken nose against his cheek! Nothing 
would matter then. 



2 5 o "_I CONQUERED" 

If he could get up, if he could mount, the 
Captain would take care of him. He could out 
run those bullets the Captain. He would take 
him home, away from this inferno. 

"I m coming, Captain!" he muttered brokenly. 
"You re waiting! Oh, I know where to find you. 
I m coming, boy, coming!" 

He stepped down from the doorway and reeled, 
a hand against his wounded breast. It seemed 
as though it required an eternity to regain his 
balance. Then he lurched forward a step. Oh, 
they were merciless! They opened on him from 
behind when he had no weapon, when his life 
was gushing away under his shirt! Those shots 
never came from one gun alone. More than one 
man fired on him! 

His salvation then was flight. He ran, stag 
gering, stumbling. He plunged forward on his 
face and heard a bullet scream over him. 

Oh, Captain ! " he moaned. Can t you come 
and get me? Can t you?" 

He snarled his determination to rally those 
senses that tried to roam off into vagaries. He 
got to his hands and knees and crawled, inch by 
inch. He heard another shot, but it went wild. 
He got to his feet and reeled on. They thought 
they d done for him when he fell! He heard 
himself laughing crazily at the joke. 

Oh, you 11 laugh, too Captain ! " he growled. 
"It s a joke you ll if I can only get to 
you!" 



GUNS CRASH 251 

His numb, lagging legs seemed to make con 
scious efforts to hold him back. His head be 
came as heavy as his feet and rolled about on 
his neck, now straight forward, now swinging 
from side to side. His arms flopped as no arm 
ever should flop. And he heard the blood bub 
bling under his vest. Perhaps he would never 
get there! Perhap she was done for! 

"Oh, no I can t quit before I get to 
you, Captain!" he muttered as he fell again. 
You re waiting where I told you to wait ! 
I ve got to get there ! " 

Of only one thing in this borderland between 
consciousness and insensibility was he certain 
the Captain was waiting. The Captain was 
w r aiting! If he could get that far It was 
the climax of all things. To reach his horse; 
to touch him; to put his arms about those ankles 
as he fell and hold them close; to answer trust 
with trust. For through all this the Captain 
had waited! 

The shack where he had left the horse swam 
before his eyes. He heard the breath making 
sounds in his throat as he crawled on toward it, 
counting each hand-breadth traveled an achieve 
ment. He tried to call out to the horse, but the 
words clogged and he could not make his voice 
carry. 

"Just a moment, boy!" he whispered. "Only 
- a moment longer then you won t have - 
to wait!" 



2 5 2 "_I CONQUERED" 

He was conscious again that his pursuers fired 
from behind. It was moonlight once more, and 
they could see him as he reeled on toward the 
shack. He sprawled again as his foot met a stone, 
and the guns ceased to crash. 

But VB did not think on this more than that 
instant. He found no comfort in the cessation 
of firing. For him, only one attainable object 
remained in life. He wanted to be with the 
thing of which he was certain, away from all else 

to know a faith was justified ; to sense once 
again stability! 

His hand struck rough wood. He strained 
his eyes to make out the tumble-down structure 
rising above him. 

"Captain!" he called, forcing his voice up from 
a whisper. "Come boy, I m ready to go 

home!" 

Clinging to the logs, he raised himself to his 
feet and swayed in through the door. 

"Captain," he muttered, closing his eyes almost 
contentedly and waiting. "Captain?" 

He started forward in alarm, a concern mount 
ing through his torture and dimming his sensi 
bilities. 

Captain are you here ? 

He stumbled forward, arms outstretched in the 
darkness, feeling about the space. He ran into 
a wall; turned, met another. 

"Captain!" he cried, his voice mounting to a 
ranting cry. 



GUNS CRASH 253 

The Captain was gone ! 

Reason for keeping on slipped from VB s mind. 
He needed air, so his reflexes carried him through 
the doorway again, out of the place where he had 
left the stallion, out of the place where his trust 
had been betrayed. He stumbled, recovered his 
balance, plunged on out into the moonlight, into 
the brush, sobbing heavily. His knees failed. He 
crashed down, face plowing into cool soil. 

Captain " ! he moaned. Oh, boy I did n t 
think you would fail - No wonder I 
could n t keep going - 

He did not hear the running feet, did not know 
they rolled him over, Rhues with his gun up 
raised. 

"I got him, th - "he muttered. 

"Then let s get out pronto!" 

Twenty minutes later a man with a lantern 
stepped out of the shack in which the Captain 
had stood. Two others were with him. 

"Yes, he left his horse there, all right," the 
man with the light muttered. "He got to him 
an got away. Nobody else could lead that horse 
off. He could n t a been hard hit or he could n t 
a got up." 



CHAPTER XXII 

TABLES TURN; AND TURN AGAIN 

A YOUNG chap from the East who was in 
^^ Clear River County because of his lungs 
named her Delilah when she was only a little 
girl Delilah Gomez. She cooked now for the 
Double Six Ranch, the buildings of which clustered 
within a stone s throw of the Ranger post office. 
And that night as she sat looking from her window 
she thought, as she did much of the time, about 
the smiling Julio with his guitar the handsome 
fellow who lived with Senor Rhues and did no 
work, but wore such fine chaps and kerchiefs! 

She sighed, then started to her feet as she saw 
him come through the gate and up the path, and 
hastened to open the door for him. 

Julio took off his hat. 

"It is late," he said, flashing his teeth. "I 
come to ask you to do something for me, Delilah." 

"What is it now so late?" she asked 
breathlessly. 

"In the old house across the road" he 
pointed "is a horse. It is the horse of a friend. 
A friend, also, of Senor Rhues. He is now in the 
saloon. He is drunk. Will you take the horse 
away? To the place of Senor Rhues? And 

254 



TABLES TURN; AND TURN AGAIN 255 

put him in the barn? And be sure to fasten 
the door so he will not get out?" 

Delilah was puzzled a moment. 

"But why," she asked, "why so late?" 

Julio bowed profoundly again. 

"We go Serior Rhues, Senor Matson, and 
I, Julio, to take our friend away from the saloon. 
We are busy. Serior Rhues offers this." 

He pressed a dollar into her palm. And for 
the dollar and a flash of Julio s teeth, Delilah 
went forth upon her commission. 

The three men watched her go. 

"That devil d tear a man to pieces," Rhues 
muttered. "Any woman can handle him, though. 
Git him locked up, an th - - tenderfoot can t 
make it away! He ll have to stay an take 
what s comin !" 

The girl led the Captain down the road, past 
the Double Six Ranch, on to the cramped little 
barn behind the cabin where lived Rhues and his 
two companions. 

It was not an easy task. The Captain did not 
want to go. He kept stopping and looking back. 
But the girl talked to him kindly and stroked his 
nose and VB himself had taught him to 
respect women. This woman talked softly and 
petted him much, for she remembered the great 
horse she had seen ridden by the tall young fellow. 
Besides, the dollar was still in her hand. She led 
him into the cramped little barn, left him standing 
and came out, closing the doors behind her. Then 



256 "_I CONQUERED" 

she set out for home, clasping the dollar and 
thinking of Julio s smile. 

The first shot attracted her. The second 
alarmed, and those that followed terrified the 
girl. She ran from the road ard hovered in the 
shadow of a huge bowlder, watching fearfully, 
uttering little moans of fright. 

She heard everything. Some men ran past her 
in the direction of Rhues s cabin, and she thought 
one of them must be Julio. But she was too 
frightened to stir, to try to determine ; too fright 
ened to do anything but make for her own home. 

The girl moved stealthily through the night, 
facing the moon that swung low, unclouded again, 
making all radiant. She wanted to run for home, 
where she could hide under blankets, but caution 
and fear held her to a walk. She did not cry out 
when she stumbled over the body ; merely cowered, 
holding both hands over her lips. 

For a long time she stood by it, looking down, 
not daring to stoop, not daring to go away. Then 
the hand that sprawled on the dirt raised itself 
fell back; the lips parted, a moan escaped, and 
the head rolled from one side to the other. 

The fear of dead things that had been on hej 
passed. She saw only a human being who was 
hurt. She dropped to her knees and took th* 
head in her lap. 

"Oh, por Dios! It is the senor who rode the 
horse!" she muttered, and looked quickly ovet 
her shoulder at the Rhues cabin. 



TABLES TURN; AND TURN AGAIN 257 

They left him; they thought he was dead," 
she went on aloud. "They should know; he 
should be with them. They were going for him 
when the shooting began!" 

She looked closer into VB s face and he moaned 
again. His eyes opened. The girl asked a 
sharp question in Spanish. 

"Is the senor much hurt?" she repeated in the 
language he understood. 

"Oh, Captain!" he moaned. "Why? Why 
did you quit?" 

She lifted him up then and he struggled slug 
gishly to help himself. 

Once he muttered: "Oh, Gail! It hurts so!" 

She strained to the limits of her lithe strength 
until she had him on his feet. Then she drew 
one of his arms about her neck, bracing herself 
to support his lagging weight. 

"Come," she said comfortingly. "We will 
go to them." 

No light showed from the Rhues cabin, but the 
girl was sure the men were there, or would com* 
soon. Loyal to Julio for the dollar and th 
memory of his graciousness, she worked with th< 
heart of a good Samaritan, guiding the unconscious 
steps of the muttering man toward the little darf 
blot of houses. 

It was a floundering progress. Twice in thf 
first few rods the man went down and she was 
sorely put to get him on his feet again. But the 
moving about seemed to bring back his strength, 

17 



258 "_I CONQUERED" 

and gradually he became better able to help 
himself. 

They crossed the road and passed through the 
gap in the fence by the cabin. VB kept muttering 
wildly, calling the girl Gail, calling for the Captain 
in a plaintive voice. 

"There they are now! See the light?" she 
whispered. "It is not much. They have covered 
the window. Yes." 

"What?" VB asked, drawing a hand across 
his eyes. 

She repeated her assertion that the men were 
in the cabin and he halted, refusing drunkenly 
to go on. 

"No," he said, shaking his head. "I m 
unarmed they " 

But she tugged at him and forced him to go 
beside her. They progressed slowly, painfully, 
quietly. There was no sound, except VB s hard 
breathing, for they trod in dust. They approached 
the house and the girl put out a hand to help her 
along with the burden. 

A thin streak of light came from a window. 
It seemed to slash deeply into the staggering 
man, bringing him back to himself. Then a 
sound, the low, worried nickering of a horse! 
The Mexican girl felt the arm about her neck 
tighten and tremble. 

"The Captain!" VB muttered, looking about 
wildly. 

He opened his lips to cry out to the horse as 



TABLES TURN; AND TURN AGAIN 259 

the events of the night poured back into his 
consciousness, to cry his questioning and his 
sorrow, to put into words the mourning for a 
faith, but that cry never came from his throat. 

The nickering of the stallion and the flood of 
memory had brought him to a clear understanding 
of the situation; a sudden glare of light from the 
abruptly uncovered window before which he and 
the girl stood provoked an alertness which was 
abnormally keen, that played with the subjective 
rather than the more cumbersome objective. 
He stooped with the quickness of a drop and 
vScuttled into the shadows, cautious, the first law 
of man athrob. 

The man who had brushed away the blanket 
that had screened the window burst into irritated 
talk. VB recognized him as Matson, Back in 
the shadows of the room he saw the Mexican 
standing. 

A table was close to the window, so close that 
in crow r ding behind it Matson had torn down the 
blanket that had done service as a curtain. A 
lamp burned on the table, its wick so high that 
smoke streamed upward through the cracked 
chimney. And close beside the lamp, eyes 
glittering, cruel cunning in every line, the flush 
of anger smearing it, was the face of Rhues! 

VB, crouching there, saw then that Matson s 
finger was leveled at Rhues. 

"It ain t good money!" 

That was the declaration Matson had made as 



260 "_I CONQUERED" 

the blanket slipped down and disclosed the scene. 
He repeated it, and his voice rose to a snarl. 

Delilah started to rise but VB jerked her back 
with a vehemence that shot a new fear through 
the girl, that made her breathe quickly and 
loudly. For the first time he turned and looked 
at the girl, not to discover who this might be thai 
had brought him to the nest of those who sough* 
his life, but to threaten. 

"You stay here," he whispered sharply. "D 
you make a sound, I 11 you 11 never forget it ! 

His face was close to hers and he wagged his 
head to emphasize the warning. 

Where she had expected to find a friend the 
Mexican girl realized that she had encountered 
a foe. Where she had, from the fullness of 
her heart and for a dollar and the admiration 
of Julio, sought to help, she knew now that she 
had wronged. His intensity filled her with this 
knowledge and sent her shrinking against the 
wall of the cabin, a hand half raised to her cheek, 
trembling, wanting to whimper for mercy. 

"Keep still!" he warned again, and, stretchinp 
one hand toward her as though to do sentry 
duty, ready to throttle any sound, to stay any 
flight, to bolster his commands, he crept closer 
to the window. 

"Why ain t it good?" Rhues was asking in ^ 
voice that carried no great conviction, as thoug ^ 
he merely stalled for time. 

VB saw him stretch a bill close to the lamp 



TABLES TURN; AND TURN AGAIN 261 

and Matson lean low beside him. The light 
fell on the piece of currency, not six feet from 
VB s fever-bright eyes. He saw that they were 
inspecting a fifty-dollar bill issued by the Con 
federate States of America! And Rhues said 
grudgingly: "Well, if that ain t good, they s 
only six hunderd n all!" 

Up came the buried memories, struggling 
through all the welded events in the furnace 
consciousness of the man who pressed his face so 
close to the window s crinkly glass. His eyes 
sought aimlessly for some object that might sug 
gest a solution for the slipping thought he tried 
to grasp. They found it found it in a rumpled, 
coiled contrivance of leather that lay beside the 
lamp. It was a money belt. The money belt 
that Kelly, the horse buyer, had worn! 

Six hundred dollars ! And a Confederate States 
fifty-dollar bill! They were quarreling over the 
spoils of that chill murder! 

VB swayed unsteadily as he felt a rage swell 
in him, a rage that nullified caution. He turned 
his eyes back to the Mexican girl cringing just 
out of his reach and moved the extended hand up 
and down slowly to keep his warning fresh upon 
her. He wanted time to think, just a moment 
to determine what action would be most advisable. 
His heart raced unevenly and he thought the hot 
edges of his wound were blistering. 

"That s two hundred apiece, then," Rhues 
said, and straightened. 



262 "_I CONQUERED" 

VB saw that the hand which had dropped the 
worthless piece of paper held a roll of yellow- 
backed bills. 

"Two hundred we all git," he growled. "You 
git it, Julio gits it, I git it an I m th party 
what done th work!" 

VB stooped and grasped Delilah roughly by 
the arm. He held a finger to his lips as he dragged 
the shaking girl out to where she could see. 

"Watch!" he commanded, close in her ear. 
Watch Rhues and the others ! 

Rhues counted slowly, wetting his thumb with 
hasty movements and dropping bills from the 
roll to the table top. 

Both you " he looked up to indicate Matson 
and Julio "gits s much s me, an I done th 
work!" 

"An if we re snagged, we stand as good a 
chanct o gettin away as you," Matson remarked, 
and laughed shortly. 

Rhues looked up again and narrowed the red 
lids over his eyes. 

"You said it!" he snarled. "That s why it s 
good to keep yer mouths shut! That s why you 
got to dig out with me. 

"If I m snagged remember, they s plenty 
o stories I could tell about you two an I will, 
too, if I m snagged cause o you!" 

He worked his shoulders in awkward gesture. 

"An that s why we want our share," Matson 
growled back. "An want it quick! We watched 



TABLES TURN; AND TURN AGAIN 263 

th road; you done th killin . We thought it 

was jus to settle things with that , but it 

wasn t. It was profitable." 

He ended with another short laugh. 

"Well, I said I d git him, did n t I? An I did, 
didn t I? An if th first time went wrong it 
was profitable, was n t it?" 

"Yes, but queek, queeker!" the Mexican broke 
in. "They might come now!" 

"Well, quit snivelin !" snapped Rhues. "It 
did n t go as we planned. I had to shoot fore 
I wanted to. But I got him, didn t I?" 

Julio reached for the pile of bills Rhues shoved 
toward him; Matson took his; Rhues pocketed 
the rest. And outside, VB relaxed his hold on 
the girl s wrist, raising both hands upward and 
out, fingers stiff and claw-like. 

Kelly, good-natured, careless, likable, trusting 
Kelly, had gone out to pay toll to this man s 
viciousness; had gone because he, VB, would not 
submit to Rhues s bullying! And now they 
laughed, and called it a profitable mistake! 

All his civilized, law-abiding nature rose in its 
might. All that spirit which demands an eye 
for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, which makes for 
statutes and courts and the driving of nations 
into fixed paths, lifted VB above any caution 
that the circumstances could have engendered. 
His whole nature cried out for the justice he had 
been trained to respect; his single remaining 
impulse was to make this man Rhues suffer for 



264 _! CONQUERED" 

the act of which there was such ample evidence. 

He struggled to find a way toward retribution, 
/or in a moment it might be too late. He had 
no thought beyond the instant, no idea but to 
possess himself of something more, to make the 
case stronger for society. He had seen, he had 
heard, he had the girl beside him, but he wanted 
more evidence. 

Matson moved away from the window and as 
he did so the sash sagged inward. It was a 
hinged casing! 

His hands numb from excitement, VB forced 
his arms against it, shoving stoutly. The force 
of his effort precipitated his head and shoulders 
into the room! He had a flash of the three men 
as they whirled and poised, with oaths, but his 
mind did not linger on them. His fingers clutched 
the money belt, drew it to him, and as Rhues 
dropped a hand to his hip VB staggered backward 
out of the window, stuffing the money belt inside 
his shirt, in against the hot wound, and stared 
about him. 

For an instant, silence, as Rhues stood, gun 
drawn, shoulders forward, gazing at the empty 
window. Then upon them came a shrill, quaver 
ing, anxious cry the call of the Captain. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

LIFE, THE TROPHY 

nPO VB, at the sound of the stallion s neigh- 
-* ing, came the realization of his position - 
weaponless in the midst of men who, now of all 
times, would shoot to kill! His righteous abhor 
rence of the murder Rhues had done and in which 
the others had been conspirators did not lessen. 
He did not falter in his determination for venge 
ance; but his thirst for it did not detract one whit 
from his realization of the situation s difficulties. 

Seconds were precious. Just a lone instant 
he poised, looking quickly about, and to his ears 
came again the cry of the horse, plaintive, wor 
ried, appealing. 

"Captain!" he cried, and started to run. 
"Captain! You didn t fail! They brought 
you!" 

His voice lifted to a shout as he rounded the 
corner of the house, and the Captain answered. 

With the horse located, VB stumbled across 
the short intervening space, one hand to his 
breast doing the double duty of attempting to 
still the searing of that wound and hold fast to 
the money belt. He flung himself at the door of 
the low little stable, jerked the fastening apart, 
and, backing in, saw men run from the house, 

265 



266 "__I CONQUERED" 

heard them curse sharply, and saw them turn 
and look, each with his shooting hand raised. 

VB drew the door shut after him, trembling, 
thinking swiftly. The Captain nosed him and 
nickered relief, stepping about in his agitation as 
though he knew the desperate nature of the 
corner into which they had been driven. 

"We ve got to get out, boy," VB cried, run 
ning his numb hands over the animal s face in 
caress. "We re up against it, but there s a way 
out!" 

It was good to be back. It was good to feel 
that thick, firm neck again, to have the warm 
breath of the vital beast on his cheek, to sense 
his dominating presence for it did dominate, 
even in that strained circumstance, and in the 
stress VB found half hysterical joy and voiced it : 

"You didn t quit, Captain!" he cried as he 
felt the cinch hastily. "You did n t quit. They 
that woman! She brought you here!" 

He flung his arms about the stallion s head in a 
quick, nervous embrace at the cost of a mighty 
cutting pain across his chest. 

Then the cautious voice of Rhues, outside and 
close up to the door, talking lowly and swiftly: 

"Julio, saddle th buckskin! Quick! I ll hold 
him here till we re ready! Then I ll shoot th 
- down in his tracks ! We got to ride, any 
how nothin 11 make no difference now!" 

Raising his voice, Rhues taunted: 

"Pray, you ! Yer goin to cash!" 



LIFE, THE TROPHY 267 

VB pressed his face to a crack and saw Rhues 
in the moonlight, close up to the door. He also 
saw another man, Julio, leading a horse from the 
corral on the run. Two other animals, saddled, 
stood near. 

He was cornered, helpless, in their hands 
hard hands, that knew no mercy. But he did 
not give up. His mind worked nimbly, skipping 
from possibility to possibility, looking, searching 
for a way out. 

He reeled to the black horse and felt the 
animal s breath against the back of his neck. 

"We re up against it, boy," he whispered. 

And the voice of Rhues again: "They ll find 
him to-morrow with th belt!" 

He broke off suddenly, as though the words had 
set in his mind a new idea. 

VB did not hear; would not have heeded had 
his senses registered the words, because an odd 
apathy had come over him, dulling the pain of 
his wound, deadening the realization of his danger. 
He sighed deeply and shook himself and tried to 
rally, but though a part of him insisted that he 
gather his faculties and force them to alertness, 
another tired, lethargic self overbore the warning. 
Half consciously he pulled the stirrup toward 
him, put up his foot with an unreal effort, and 
laboriously drew himself to the saddle. There, 
he leaned forward on his arms, which were 
crossed on the Captain s neck, oblivious to all 
that transpired. 



268 "_I CONQUERED" 

But the great stallion was not insensible to the 
situation. He could not know the danger, but he 
did know that he had been led into a strange 
place, shut there and left virtually a prisoner; 
ihat his master had burst in upon him atremble 
yith communicable excitement; that strange 
/oices were raised close to him ; that men had been 
funning to and fro; that the sounds of struggling 
horses were coming from out there; that some 
man was standing on the other side of the door, 
closer than most men had ever stood to him. He 
breathed loudly; then stilled that breath to listen, 
his head moving with frequent, short jerks as he 
saw objects move past the cracks in the building. 
He switched his tail about his hindquarters 
sharply, and backed a step. 

Another voice called softly to Rhues, and Rhues 
answered : 

"Dah! When I rolled him over his holster 
flopped out of his shirt, empty. He dropped it 
in th s loon. If he d had a gun he d done fer us 
n there, would n t he?" 

Then his voice was raised in a sharp command : 
"Help him, Julio! Hang on to his ear an he ll 
stand. Pronto!" 

Sounds of men grunting, of a horse striving to 
break from them; a sharp cry. These things - 
and emanating from a scene taking place outside 
the Captain s sight! He half wheeled and 
scrubbed the back wall of the stable with his hip, 
blowing loudly in fright. He stamped a forefoot 



LIFE, THE TROPHY 269 

impatiently; followed that by a brisk, nervous 
pawing. He tossed his head and chewed his bit 
briskly; then shook his head and blew loudly 
again. He shied violently as a man ran past 
the door, wheeled, crashed into the wall again 
and, crouching, quivered violently. 

VB moaned with pain. When the horse under 
him had shied the boy had pushed himself erect 
in the saddle and the effort tore at the wound in 
his chest. The pain roused him, and as the 
Captain again wheeled, frantic to find a way out 
of this pen, VB s heels clapped inward to retain 
his seat, the spurs drove home, and with a whimper 
the horse reared to his hind legs, lunged forward, 
and the front hoofs, shooting out, crashed squarely 
against the closed door! 

Under the force of the blow the door swept 
outward, screaming on its rusty hinges. A third 
of the way open it struck resistance, quivered, 
seemed to hesitate, then continued on its arc. 

A surprised, muffled shout, the sound of a body 
striking ground, a shot, its stream of fire spitting 
toward the night sky. Then the vicious smiting 
of hoofs as the Captain, bearing his witless rider, 
swung in a short circle and made for the river. 

Rhues, caught and knocked flat by the burst 
ing open of the door, was perhaps a half-dozen 
seconds in getting to his feet. He came up 
shooting, a stream of leaden missiles shrieking 
aimlessly off into space. Julio and Matson, busy 
with the refractory buckskin, heard the crash 



2 7 o "_I CONQUERED" 

and creak of the swinging door, heard the shout, 
heard the shot; they turned to see the black 
stallion sweep from the little building and swirl 
past them, ears back, teeth gleaming, and bearing 
to the north. 

Still clinging to the buckskin s head, the Mexican 
drew his gun; Matson, utterly bewildered, fearful 
of impending consequences, gave the cinch a 
final tug, but before Julio could fire the water of 
the river was thrown in radiant spray as the 
Captain floundered into midstream with VB low 
on his neck. 

Then Rhues was on them, putting into choking 
words the vileness of his heart. He did not 
explain beyond: 

Th - - horse ! Th door got me ! " 

He seized the cheek strap of the buckskin s 
bridle and swung up, while the others watched 
the horse running out into the moonlit river. 
The pony reared and pivoted on his hind legs. 

"Git on yer hosses!" Rhues screeched, yanking 
at the bit. "He can t git away, with his hoss run 
down once to-night ! An if we let him we 
swing!" 

Goaded by that terror they obeyed, hanging 
spurs in their horses flanks before they found 
stirrups, and the trio whirled down to the water. 

"He s goin home!" Rhues cried above the 
splashing. "That s our way out; we ll git him 
as we go long! We ll ride him down; he ain t 
got a gun ! An they 11 find him out yonder with 



LIFE, THE TPOPHY 271 

th money belt on him! We " He broke 
short with a laugh. "We could claim th reward! 
Two fifty, dead r alive!" 

Matson snarled something. Then, as their 
horses struggled up the far bank of the stream, 
completed it: 

- with th reward ! What we want s a 
get-away ! 

"We re on our way now," growled Rhues, and 
lashed his pony viciously with the ends of his 
bridle reins. 

Knee to knee they raced, the ponies stretching 
their heads far out in efforts to cover that light 
ribbon of road which clove the cloudlike sage 
brush and ate up the distance between their 
position and that scudding blur ahead. Each 
had his gun drawn and held high in the right 
hand ready for use; each, with eyes only for that 
before them, with minds only for speed and 
quick speculation on what might happen should 
they fail. 

The creak of leather, the sharp batter of hoofs, 
the rattle of pebbles as they were thrown out 
against the rocks, the excited breathing of horses : 
A race, with human life the trophy! 

And VB, looking back, saw. With set teeth 
he leaned still lower over the Captain s neck in 
spite of the raging the posture set up in his torn 
breast. No will of his had directed the stallion 
in that flight northward. His unexpected dash 
through the barn door, the quick recognition of 



272 "_1 CONgiTERiiD 

the point they had scored, the sharp pang which 
came when VB realized the fact that the horsed 
break for home had cut him off from help that 
might have remained in Ranger, left the wounded 
man in a swirl of confused impressions. 

Behind all the jumble was the big urge to reach 
that place which had been the only true haven 
of his experience. He felt a glimmer of solace 
when he sensed that he was going home which 
quite neutralized the terror that the glance at 
those oncoming riders provoked. The comfort 
inculcated by the idea grew into clear thinking; 
from there on into the status of an obsession. 
He was going home! He was on the way, with 
that mighty beast under him! He raised more 
of his weight to the stirrups and laid a reassuring 
hand on the snapping shoulder of his horse. 

And on his trail rode the merciless three, their 
eyes following the bending course of the road, 
hat-brims now blown back against the crowns, 
now down over their eyes in the rush through the 
night. Rhues rode a quarter of a length ahead 
of the others, and his automatic was raised higher 
than were their gun-hands. Now and then one 
of the trio spoke sharply to his horse and grunted 
as he raked with a spur, but for the greater part 
of the time they did not lift their voices above 
the thunder of the race. They knew what must 
happen; they held their own, and waited! 

"Go, boy, go!" whispered VB. "We ll run 
their legs off; they ll never get in range!" 



LIFE, THE TROPHY 273 

The Captain held an attentive ear backward 
a moment, then shot it forward, watching the 
road, holding his rolling, space-eating stride. VB 
turned his head and again looked back. They 
were still there ! No nearer but he had not 
shaken them off. Two, perhaps three, miles 
had been covered and they hung by him, just 
within sight, just beyond that point where they 
might fire with an even chance of certainty. He 
pressed his arm against his burning breast, 
crowding the treasured money belt tighter against 
the wound. Somehow, it seemed to dull the tor 
ment, and for minutes he held the pressure con 
stant, still lifted to supreme heights of endeavor 
and ability to withstand suffering by the rage 
that had welled up from his depths as he stood 
back in the shadow of the cabin and had the 
suspicion of how and why Kelly had met death 
become certainty. 

Another mile, and he turned to look back again. 
They still hung there, making a blur in the moon 
light, fanciful, half floating, but he knew they 
were real, knew that they hammered their way 
through the night with lust for his life! 

Captain ! " he cried, apprehension rising. Go 
it, boy; go it!" 

He pressed a spur lightly against his side and 
felt the great beast quiver between strides. 
The pace quickened a trifle, but VB saw that the 
ears were no longer held steadily to the fore, that 
the head ducked with each leap forward as he 

18 



274 "I CONQUERED" 

had never seen it duck before. And as the 
thought with its killing remorse thundered into 
his intelligence, VB sat erect in the saddle with 
a gasp and a movement which staggered the 
running animal that bore him. 

The Captain s strength had been drained! For 
twenty strides VB sat there, inert, a dead weight, 
while grief came into his throat, into his vision, 
deadening his mind. In all that melodrama which 
began when he stared through the saloon door and 
saw Rhues standing in the moonlight, gun ready, 
the reason for his presence in Ranger, the history 
of the earlier night, had been obliterated for the 
time being. Now, as he felt the beast under him 
labor, heard his heavy breathing, saw the froth 
on his lips, it all came back to Young VB. 

Oh, Captain ! " he wailed, leaning forward 
again, eyes burning, throat choking. 

And for a long time he rode as though unable 
to do else but hold his position over the fork of 
the saddle. 

He was stunned, beaten down by poignant 
remorse. The Captain had made the long ride 
from Jed s to Ranger at a killing pace. VB 
remembered acutely now that the stallion had 
staggered as he emerged from Clear River and 
came into view of the saloon lights. And he 
had been there how long? An hour of poker, 
perhaps; an hour more at the outside. Two 
hours for the horse to regain the strength that 
had been taken from him in that cruel ride a 



LIFE, THE TROPHY 275 

ride taken to satisfy the viciousness which made 
VB a man uncertain of himself ! 

The Captain had been wasted! He had gone, 
as had VB s heart and mind, to be a sacrifice for 
hideous gods! In an hour of weakness he had 
been offered, had been given gladly, and without 
thought of his value! For had not VB gloried 
in that ride to Ranger? Had it not been the end 
of all things for him? An end for which he was 
thankful ? Had it not been all conscious, witting, 
planned ? It had and it had not been worth 
the candle! 

The boy moaned aloud and wound his fingers 
in the flapping mane. 

"Captain!" he cried. "It was all wrong 
all false! I threw you away an hour ago, and 
now you re life to me! Oh, boy, will you 
forgive? Can you?" 

No fear of death tapped the wells of his grief. 
There was only sorrow for his wasting of that 
great animal, that splendid spirit, that clean 
strength ! 

After a moment he sobbed: "You can t do 
anything else but go on, boy ! You re that sort ! 
You ll go, then I ll go; anyhow, it will be to 
gether!" 

And the great beast, blowing froth from his 
lips, struggled on, while from behind came the 
sounds of other running horses perhaps a 
trifle nearer. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

VICTORY 

THE road writhed on through the sage brush 
sixteen miles from Ranger before it branched. 
Then to the right ran the S Bar S route, while 
straight on it headed into Jed s ranch, and the 
left-hand course, shooting away from the others 
behind a long, rocky point, followed Sand Creek 
up to the cluster of buildings which marked the 
domicile of Dick Worth. 

It was more than halfway. The Captain, now 
trotting heavily, now breaking once more into 
a floundering gallop, passed the first fork, that 
leading toward Worth s. With a gulp of relief 
VB saw that the moon hung low in the west 
so low that the road home would be in the shadow 
of the point, which seemed to come down pur 
posely to split the highway. He might then 
find refuge in darkness somewhere. He mus> 
have refuge! 

At the tenth mile he had suspected, now h^ 
knew, that it would be impossible to stand oiP 1 
his pursuers clear to the ranch, and there were n 
habitations between him and Jed s. 

"They haven t gained on you, boy!" he cried 
as he made out the distinct outlines of the point . 
"They re right where they were at the star! ! 

276 



VICTORY 277 

No other horse in the world could have done 
it ; not even you should be asked to do it but - 
out" 

He choked back the sob that fought to come. 
He knew he must concentrate his last energy,, 
now. If he came through there would be time 
to think of his crime against the Captain! But 
now - Futures depend on lives. His life dan 
gled in the balance, and he wanted it, as men 
can want life only when they feel it slipping. 

Back there three men raked the streaming sides 
of their ponies with vicious spurs. 

"He can t make it!" Rhues swore. "Th 
black s quittin now! If he gits away, what 
chance we got? We got to git him! It ll give 
us th last chance!" 

"We re killin our horses," growled Matson. 

And Julio, a length behind, flogged his pinto 
mercilessly. 

No craving for VB s life prompted Rhues 
now. He must go on for the sake of his own 
safety. He and those other two had all to gain 
and nothing to lose. If they could drop the man 
ahead it would be possible to skirt the ranches, 
catch fresh horses, and make on toward Wyoming. 
But let VB gain shelter with Jed or any one else, 
and a posse would be on their trail before they 
could be beyond reach. 

No, there could be no turning back ! They had 
made their bet; now they must back it with the 
whole stack. And before them that blot in the 



278 "_I CONQUERED" 

moonlight a wounded, suffering man cried aloud 
to the horse that moved so heavily under him. 

"Make it to the point, Captain!" he begged. 
"Just there! It ll be dark! Only a little faster, 
boy!" 

The stallion grunted under the stress of his 
effort, moving for the moment with less uncer 
tainty, with a jot more speed. 

They crawled up to the point and followed the 
bend of the road as it led into the dimness of 
the gulch. Across the way, far to the right, 
moonlight fell on the cliffs, but where the 
road hung close to the rise at the left all was in 
shadow. 

To VB, entering the murk was like plunging from 
the heat of glaring day to the cool of a forest. 

The men behind him would be forced to come 
twice as close before they could make firing 
effective. Then, when he reached the ranch 

He threw out an arm in a gesture of utter hope 
lessness. Reach the ranch? He laughed aloud, 
mocking his own guilelessness. He had come 
only a little more than half the distance now, 
and Captain could scarcely be held at a trot. 
Three miles, possibly five, he might last, and then 
his rider would have to face his pursuers with 
empty hands. 

His was the very epitome of despair. A weaker 
man would have quit then, would have let the 
stallion flounder to his finish, would have waited sub 
missively for Rhues to come and shoot him down. 



VICTORY 279 

But VB possessed the strength of his desperation. 

Rhues might get him now, as he had tried to 
get him twice before, but he would get him by 
fighting. Not wholly for himself did the boy 
think, but for the likable, friendly Kelly, who had 
died there in his blankets without warning. If 
he could rid men of the menace which Rhues 
represented he would have done service, and the 
life of those last months had implanted within 
him the will to be of use though, a few hours 
back, he might have thought it all a delusion. 

So VB was alert with the acute alertness of 
mind which is given to humans when forced to 
fight to preserve life when everything, the 
buried subconscious impulses, the forgotten, 
tucked-away memories, are in the fore, crying to 
help. Abandoning hope of reaching Jed s, he 
turned all his physical force, even, into the 
mental effort to seek a way out; fought his way 
to clarified thought, fought his way into logic. 
He could not go on much longer; there was no 
such thing as turning back, for he could hear 
them, nearer now! He could hear the click of 
pebbles as his pursuers horses sent them scatter 
ing, and a pebble click will not travel far. Ahead 
-weakening muscles; behind guns ready; to 
the right moonlight; to the left 

The bridle rein drew across the Captain s 
lathered neck. The big beast swung to the left, 
out of the road, crashed through the brush, and 
lunged against the rise of rocks. 



2 So "_I CONQUERED" 

The horse seemed to sense the fact that this 
was the one remaining chance, the last possi 
bility left in their bag of tricks. He picked his 
way up among the ragged bowlders and spiked 
brush with a quickness of movement that told 
of the breaking through into those reservoirs of 
strength which are held in man and bea,st until 
a last hope is found. 

VB went suddenly faint. The loss of blood, 
the pain, the stress of nervous thought, the know 
ing that his full hand was on the table, caused 
him to reel dizzily in the saddle. He made no 
pretense of guiding the Captain. He merely 
sagged forward and felt the horse lunge and 
plunge and climb with him, heard the rasping 
breath that seemed to come from a torn throat. 

Below and behind, the trailers swept from 
moonlight into shadow, horses wallowing as 
though that hard road were in deep mud, so great 
was the race that the stallion, spent though he 
might be, had given them. Rhues was ahead, 
revolver held higher than before, Matson s pony 
at his flank and Julio a dozen lengths behind. 
Bridle reins, knotted, hung loosely on their 
horses necks; the three left hands rose and fell 
and quirts swished viciously through the night air. 

"We got to close in!" Rhues cried. "We ll 
have him n a mile!" 

And he called down on the heads of the horses 
awful imprecations for their weakness. 

On into the darkness they stormed, Julio 



VICTORY 281 

trailing. And when Rhues had passed by fifty 
yards the point where the Captain had turned to 
take the steep climb the Mexican opened his 
throat in a cry, half of fright, half of exultation. 

The Captain, almost at the end of his climb, 
leaping from rise to rise, had missed his footing. 
The soft earth slid as he jumped for a ledge of 
rock, and the front feet, coming down on the 
smooth surface in frantic clawing to prevent a 
fall, sent fire streaming from their shoes. In the 
darkness Julio had seen the orange sparks. At 
his cry the others set their ponies back on haunches 
and, following the Mexican, who now led, cursing 
VB and their weakening mounts, they com 
menced the climb. VB knew. The flash from 
the stallion s feet had roused him; he heard the 
shout; he knew what must follow. He gave no 
heed to the bullet which bored the air above 
him as he was silhouetted for the instant against 
moonlit space before he commenced the drop 
to the road leading up Sand Creek. 

Where now? With a sigh which ended in a 
quick choking, as though he were through, ready 
to give up this ghost of a chance, ready to quit 
struggling on, the Captain dropped from the last 
little rim and turned into the road. Not on ahead 
- into that void where they could ride him down. 
Not back toward Ranger, for it was impossibly 
far. Where then? What was there? Sand 
Creek! And up Sand Creek was Dick Worth s! 

VB caught his breath in a sob. It was the one 



282 "__I CONQUERED" 

goal open to him, though the odds were crushing. 
He pressed the money belt tightly. Dick Worth 
was the man who should have that Dick 
Worth, deputy sheriff! He lifted his voice and 
cried aloud the name of the deputy. 

To the north once more the Captain headed, 
and with no word from VB took up the floundering 
way again. The boy looked behind and saw the 
others commence the drop down the moonlit 
point saw one of the blurs slump quickly and 
heard a man scream. Then he leaned low on the 
stallion and talked to the horse as he would talk 
to a child who could pilot him to safety. 

Behind him, along the road, came the blot 
again, now, however, smaller. VB did not know 
that it was Julio who had fallen, but he knew 
with a fierce delight that the Captain, running 
on his bare spirit, had killed off one of the 
pursuers ! 

The boy grew hysterical. He chattered to the 
stallion, knowing nothing of the words he uttered. 
At times his lips moved but uttered no sound. 
Continually his hands sought his breast. He 
knew from the dampness that crept down his 
side, on down into the trouser leg, that the wound 
still bled, that his life was running out through 
the gash. 

Through the clamoring of his heart a familiar 
ache came into his throat, and the boy lifted his 
voice into the night with a rant of rage, of self- 
denunciation. 



VICTORY 283 

"Oh, Captain! You were the price!" he 
moaned. 

But still he wanted just one drink ! Not to 
satisfy that craving now, but to keep him alive, 
a legitimate use for stimulant. 

The stallion ceased pretense of galloping. 
Now and then he even dropped from his uncer 
tain trotting to a walk. 

VB, watching behind, could just make out 
those other travelers in the light of the low- 
hanging moon which seemed to balance on the 
ragged horizon and linger for sight of the finish 
of this grim drama worked out in the lonely 
stretches. As the horse stumbled more and 
more frequently under him VB knew that those 
w r ho pressed him were coming closer. Then 
a flash of flame and a bullet spattered itself 
against a rock ahead and to the right. 

"They re closer, Captain!" he muttered grimly. 
"The game s going against us against you. 
I m too much of a burden too much weight." 

His mind seized upon the aimless words. The 
suddenness of his shifting in the saddle made 
the stallion stagger, for VB s whole weight went 
into the right stirrup. He drew the other up 
with fiendish tinges shooting through his breast 
and tore at the cinch. It came loose. The 
saddle turned. VB flung his arms about the 
Captain s neck and kicked it from under him. 

"Fifty pounds gone!" he muttered tri 
umphantly, and the horse tossed his head, 



284 "I CONQUERED" 

quickening the trot, trying once again the heavy 
gallop. 

VB could hear the horse breathing through his 
mouth. He looked down and saw that the long 
tongue flopped from the lips with every movement 
of the fine head. Tears came to his eyes as he 
caressed the Captain s withers frantically. 

"Can I do more, boy?" he asked in a strained 
voice. "Can I do more?" 

It was as though he pleaded with a dying 
human. 

"Yes, I can do more!" he cried a moment later 
in answer to his own question. "You ve given 
your whole to me ; now I 11 give you back your 
freedom, make you as free as you were the day 
I took you. I ll strip you, boy!" 

He reached far out along the neck, drawing 
his weight up on the withers, and loosed the 
head-stall. The bridle fell into the road and the 
Captain ran naked! And, as though to show his 
gratitude, the horse shook his head groggily and 
reeled on in his crazy progress. 

A half mile farther on the Captain fell. VB 
went down heavily and mounted the waiting 
horse again in a daze from which he was 
roused by the fresh gushing on his breast. 
Another shot from behind then two close 
together. 

Dawn was coming. He looked around vaguely. 
The moon was slipping away. Perhaps yet it 
would be in at the finish. The shimmering light 



VICTORY 285 

of new day was taking from objects their ghostly 
quality; making them real. The men behind 
could see VB and they were . firing ! 

The boy said no word to the Captain. He 
merely clamped his knees tighter and leaned 
lower on his neck. He had ceased to think, 
ceased to struggle. His trust, his life, was in the 
shaking legs of the animal he rode, whose sweat 
soaked through his clothing to mingle with the 
blood there. 

The stallion breathed in great moaning sobs, 
as though his heart were bursting, as though his 
lungs were raw and bleeding. He reeled from 
side to side crazily. Now and then he ran out 
of the road and floundered blindly back. His 
head hung low, almost to his knees, and swung 
from side to side with each step, and at intervals 
he raised it as though it were a great weight, to 
gasp and to sob ! 

From behind, bullets. Rhues and Matson fired 
grimly. They had ceased to lash their ponies, 
for it was useless. The beasts were beyond giving 
better service in return for punishment. Their 
sides dripped blood, but they were beyond suffer 
ing. Handicapped as he had been, the Captain 
had held them off, almost stride for stride. 

Better light now, but their shooting could not 
hope to find a mark except through chance. They 
cursed in glad snarls as they saw the stallion reel, 
sink to his knees; then snarled again as they saw 
him recover and go on at his drunken trot. 



2 86 "_I CONQUERED" 

Before VB s eyes floated a blotch of color. It 
was golden, a diffused light that comforted him; 
that, for some incomprehensible reason, was 
soothing to the senses. It eased the wound, too, 
and put new strength in his heart so that he could 
feel the warm blood seeping slowly into his numb 
arms and hands and fingers. He smiled foolishly 
and hugged the Captain s neck as the horse reeled 
along. Oh, it was a glorious color! He remem 
bered the day he had seen a little patch of it 
scudding along the roadway in the sunshine. 
Why, it had seemed like concentrated sunshine 
itself. 

Gail, he murmured. It was you I did n t 
want to put that mark on you!" 

The nature of that color became clear to him 
and he roused himself. It was a light a light 
in a window the window of a ranch house 
Dick Worth s ranch house! 

Bullets had ceased to zip and sing and spatter. 
He did not turn to see what had become of his 
pursuers, for -he was capable of only one thought 
at a time. 

Dick Worth ! Dick Worth ! " he screamed. 

Then he looked behind. Away to the left he 
saw two riders pushing through the dawn, de- 
touring. And he laughed, almost gayly. 

Another blotch of light, a bigger one, showed 
in the young day. It was an opened door, and 
a deep chest gave forth an answer to his cry. 
Dick Worth stepped from the threshold of his 



VICTORY 287 

home and ran to the gate to see better this crazy 
figure which lurched toward him. It was a man 
on foot, hatless, his face gray like the sky above, 
hair tousled, eyes glowing red. He stumbled 
to the fence and leaned there for support, holding 
something forward, something limp and blood 
stained. 

Dick it s Kelly s money belt Rhues 
he killed him He shot me he s got the 
money on him he s swinging off west 
two of em Their horses are all in He- 
he shot Kelly because I would n t take a 
drink he and I need a drink " 

He slumped down against the fence. 

After an uncertain age VB swam back from 
that mental vacuity to reality. He saw, first, 
that the Captain was beside him, standing there 
breathing loudly, eyes closed, sobbing low at 
every heave of his lungs. 

A quavering moan made its way to the boy s 
throat and he moved over, reaching out groping 
arms for the stallion s lowered head. 

"Captain!" he moaned. "Oh, boy it was 
our last ride I can never ask you to carry 
me again." 

He hugged the face closer to his. 

Then he heard a man s voice saying: 

"Here, VB, take this it ll brace you up!" 

He turned his face slowly, for the strength that 
remained was far from certain. His wound was 



288 "_I CONQUERED" 

on fire, every nerve of his body laid bare. His 
will to do began and ended with wanting to hold 
that horse s head close. He was as a child, 
stripped of every effect that the experiences of his 
life could have had. He was weak, broken, 
unwittingly searching for a way back to strength. 

He turned his head halfway and beheld the 
man stooping beside him who held in his hands 
a bottle, uncorked, and from it came a strong 
odor. 

The boy dilated his nostrils and drew great 
breaths laden with the fumes of the stuff. A 
new life came into his eyes. They shone, they 
sparkled. Activity came to those bare nerves, 
and they raised their demands. 

He opened his mouth and let the odor he in 
haled play across that place in his throat. The 
smell went on out through his arteries, through 
his veins, along the nerves to the ends of his 
being, to the core of his soul! He was down, 
down in the depths, his very ego crying for the 
stimulant, for something to help it come back. 

He coaxed along that yearning, let it rise to 
its fullest. Then he raised his eyes to meet the 
concerned gaze of the other man. And the man 
saw in those eyes a look that made him sway 
back, that made him open his lips in surprise. 

"To hell with that stuff!" the boy screamed. 
"To hell with it! To hell to hell! It belongs 
there! It it killed the Captain!" 

Tears came with the sobs, and strength to 



VICTORY 289 

the arms that held the stallion s head; strength 
that surged through his entire body, stilling those 
nerves, throttling the crying of his throat. For 
VB had gone down to his test, his real ordeal, 
and had found himself not wanting. 



19 



CHAPTER XXV 

"THE LIGHT!" 

JED AVERY sat alone. It was night, a 
moonlight night in Colorado, the whole 
world bathed in a cold radiance that conduces 
to dreams and fantasies. 

But as he sat alone Jed s mind wove no light 
reveries. Far from it, indeed. He was sodden 
in spirit, weakened in nerve. 

He rested his body on the edge of a chair seat 
and leaned far forward, elbows on his knees. 
His fingers twined continually, and on occasion 
one fist hammered the palm of the other hand. 

"You old fool!" he whispered. "You old 
fool! Now, if he s gone " 

For twenty-four hours he had not dared frame 
the words. 

He lifted his eyes to the window, and against 
the moonlight stood a bottle, its outlines dis 
torted by incrustings of tallow. No candle was 
in its neck. There was only the bottle. 

After a time the old man got up and paced the 
floor, three steps each way from the splotch of 
moonlight that came through the window. He 
had been walking that way for a night and a day 
and now it was another night. 

While it was daylight he had walked outside, 

290 



"THE LIGHT!" 291 

eyes ever on the road, hoping, fearing. And no 
one had come! Now, as the night wore on and 
the boy did not return, Jed s condition bordered 
on distraction. 

His pacing became faster and more fast. He 
lengthened the limits of his walk to those of the 
room, and finally in desperation jerked open the 
door to walk outside. 

But he did not leave the threshold. Two 
figures, a man and a horse, coming up the road 
held him as though robbed of the will to move. 
He stood and stared, breathing irregularly. The 
man, who walked ahead, made his way slowly 
toward the gate. He was followed by the horse, 
followed as a dog might follow, for not so much 
as a strap was on the animal. The man s move 
ments were painful, those of the horse deliberate. 

Jed knew both those figures too well to be mis 
taken, even though his sight dimmed. 

He wanted to cry out, but dared not. One 
question alone crowded to get past his teeth. 
The answer would mean supremest joy or sorrow. 
Fear of the latter held him mute. 

The man unfastened the gate and let it swing 
open. "Come, boy," he said gently, and the big 
animal stepped inside. 

With the same slow movements again, the man 
closed the bars. 

Jed stood silent. A coyote high on the hills 
lifted his voice in a thin yapping, and the sound 
made Old VB shiver. 



2 Q2 "_I CONQUERED" 

The boy came slowly toward the house. He 
saw Jed, but gave no sign, nor did the old man 
move. He stood there, eyes on the other in a 
misted stare, and VB stopped before him, putting 
a hand against the wall for support. 

Then came the question, popping its way 
through unwilling, tight lips: 

"Shall I light th candle, Young VB?" 

His voice was shrill, strained, vibrant with 
anxiety. But VB did not answer merely lifted 
a hand to his hot head. 

"VB, when you left last night th candle 
dropped down into th bottle an went out. 
I did n t dare light a new one to-night - His 
voice broke, and he paused a moment. "I 
did n t dare light it until I knowed. I ve been 
settin in th dark here, thinkin things tryin 
not to think dark things." 

One hand went halfway to his mouth in fear 
as he waited for the other to answer. VB put 
a hand on Jed s shoulder, and the old man clamped 
his cold fingers over it desperately. 

"Yes, Jed light it," he said huskily. Then 
he raised his head and looked at the old man with 
a half smile. "Light it, Jed. Let it burn on 
and on, just for the sake of being bright. But we 
we don t need it any more. Not for the old 
reason, Jed." 

The cold hand twitched as it gripped the hot one. 

"Not for the old reason, Jed," VB continued. 
"There s a bigger, better, truer light burning 



"THE LIGHT!" 293 

now. It won t slip into the bottle; it can t be 
blown out. It did n t waver when the true crisis 
came. It ll always burn; it won t slip down into 
the bottle. It s it s the real thing." 

He staggered forward, and Jed caught him, 
sobbing like a woman, a happy woman. 

They had the whole story over then by the 
light of a fresh candle. 

When Jed started forward with a cry at the 
recital of the shooting VB pushed him off. 

" It s only a flesh wound ; it don t matter - 
much. Mrs. Worth dressed it, and I m all right. 
It s the Captain I want to tell about the 
Captain, Jed!" 

And he told it all, in short, choking sentences, 
stripping his soul naked for the little rancher. 
He did not spare himself, not one lone lash. He 
ended, crushed and bleeding before the eyes of 
his friend. After a pause he straightened back 
in his chair, the new fire in his eyes, the fire the 
man at Worth s had seen when he offered drink. 

"But I ve got to make it up to the Captain 
now," he said with a wild little laugh. "I ve got 
to go on. He gave me the chance. He took me 
into blackness, into the test I needed, and brought 
me back to light. I ve got to be a man, Jed - 
a man " 

And throughout the night Jed Avery tended 
the wound and watched and muttered with 
joy in his heart. 



294 "I CONQUERED" 

Morning came, with quieted nerves for VB. 
He lay in the bunk, weak, immobile. 

Jed came in from tending the horses. 

"He didn t bleed, did he, VB?" 

"No." 

"It ain t what you thought, sonny. It ain t 
bad. Give him a rest an he ll be better n ever. 
Why, he s out there now, head up, whisperin 
for you! You can t break a spirit like his unless 
you tear his vitals out ! " 

VB smiled, and the smile swelled to a laugh. 

"Oh, Jed, it makes me so happy! But it 
won t be as it was. I can never let him carry 
me again." 

The old man turned on the boy a puzzled look. 

"What you goin to do with him, VB turn 
him loose again?" 

"Not that, Jed; he would n t be happy. He ll 
never carry me again, but perhaps perhaps he 
could carry a light rider a girl a woman." 

And from Jed: "Oh-o-o-o!" 

An interval of silence. 

"That is," muttered VB, "if she ll take him, 
and" 

"Would you want him away from you?" the 
old man insisted. 

"Oh, I hope it won t be that, Jed! I hope 
not but I want her to You understand. 
Jed? You understand?" 

The other nodded his head, a look of grave 
tenderness in the old eyes. 



"THE LIGHT!" 295 

"Then then, Jed, I m all right. I can get 
along alone. Would you mind riding over and 
asking her if she d come 

You see, Jed, I know now. I did n t before 
I m sure it s worth the candle and there 11 be 
no more darkness; no lasting night for her if " 

Jed walked slowly out into the other room and 
picked up his spurs. VB heard him strap them 
on, heard his boots stamp across the floor and 
stop. 

"I d go, VB, but it ain t necessary." 

The boy raised his head, and to his ears came 
the bellow of a high-powered motor, the sound 
growing more distinct with each passing second. 

"Lord, how that woman s drivin !" Jed cried. 
"Lordy!" And he ran from the house. 

The bellow of the motor rose to a sound like 
batteries of Catlings in action; then came the 
wail of brakes. 

With a pulsing thrill VB heard her voice up 
raised with such a thrill that he did not catch 
the dread in her tone as she questioned Jed. 

She came to him swiftly, eyes dimmed with 
tears, without words, and knelt by his bunk, 
hands clasped about his head. For many minutes 
they were so, VB gripping her fine, firm forearms. 
Then she raised her face high. 

"And you wouldn t let me help?" she asked 
querulously. 

He looked at her long and soberly, and took 
both her hands in his. 



2 9 6 _! CONQUERED" 

"It was the one place you couldn t help," he 
muttered. "It was that sort my love, I 
mean. I had to know; had to know that I 
would n t put a hateful mark on you by loving. 
I had to know that. Don t you see?" 

She moved closer and came between him and 
the sunshine that poured through the open door. 
The glorious light was caught by her hair and 
thrown, it seemed, to the veriest corners of the 
dingy little room. 

"The light!" he cried. 

She settled against him, her lips on his, and 
clung so. From outside came the shrilling call 
of the Captain. VB crushed her closer. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

To THE VICTOR 

T IP the flagged walk to the house of chill, 
^ white stone overlooking the North River 
went a messenger, and through the imposing front 
portal he handed a letter, hidden away in a sheaf 
of others. A modest-appearing letter; indeed, 
perhaps something less than modest; possibly 
humble, for its corners were crumpled and its 
edges frayed. Yet, of all the packages handed 
him, Daniel Lenox, alone at his breakfast, 
singled it out for the earliest attention. 
And what he read was this: 

DEAR FATHER: 

In my last letter written ten years ago, it seems 
I promised to tell you my whereabouts when I had 
achieved certain ends. I now write to tell you that 
I am at the Thorpe Ranch, one hundred and thirty 
miles northwest of Colt, Colorado, the nearest railroad 
point. 

I can inform you of this now because I have won 
my fight against the thing which would have stripped 
me of my manhood. And I want to make clear the 
point that it was you, father, who showed me the way, 
who made me realize to what depths I had gone. 

I am very humble, for I know the powers that rule 
men. 

When I left New York there was little in me to 

297 



298 "I CONQUERED" 

interest you, but I am making bold enough to tell you 
of the greatest thing in my life. I have won the love 
of a good woman. We are to be married here the 
twentieth, and some day I will want to bring her East 
with me. I hope you will want to see her. 

Your son, 

DANNY. 

While the hand of the big clock made a quarter 
circle the man sat inert in his chair; limp, weak 
in body, spirit, and mind, whipped by the bitterest 
lashes that human mind can conjure. Then he 
raised his chin from his breast and rested his head 
against the back of the chair, while his hands hung 
loose at his sides. 

His lips moved. "Hope you will want to 
see her," he repeated in a whisper. 

A pause, and again words: 

"He would n t even ask me would n t dream 
I wanted to be there!" 

An old man, you would have said, old and 
broken. The snap, the precision that had been 
his outstanding characteristic, was gone. But 
not for long. The change came before the 
whispering had well died; the lines of purpose, 
of decision, returned to his face, his arms ceased 
to hang limp, the look in the eyes none the 
less warm became definite, focused. 

Suddenly Daniel Lenox sat erect and raised 
the letter to the light once more. 

"The twentieth!" he muttered. "And this 
is" 

Another train fumed at the distances, left 



TO THE VICTOR 299 

cities behind, and crawled on across prairies to 
mountain ranges. As it progressed, dispatchers, 
one after another, sat farther forward in their 
chairs and the alert keenness of their expression 
grew a trifle sharper. For the Lenox Special, 
New York to Colt, Colorado, invited disaster with 
every mile of its frantic rush across country. 
Freights, passenger trains, even the widely 
advertised limiteds, edged off the tracks to let it 
shriek on unhampered. 

In the swaying private car sat the man who 
had caused all this disarray of otherwise neat 
schedules. At regular, short intervals his hand 
traveled to watch-pocket and his blue eyes 
scrutinized the dial of his timepiece as though 
to detect a lie in the sharp, frank characters. In 
the other hand, much of the time, were held 
sheets of limp paper. They had been folded and 
smoothed out again so many times and, though 
he was an old man and one who thought mostly 
in figures, fondled so much, that the ink on them 
was all but obliterated in places. 

He read and reread what was written there as 
the train tore over the miles, and as he read the 
great warmth came back to his eyes. With 
it, at times, a fear came. When fear was there, 
he tugged at his watch again. 

Up grades, through canons, the special roared 
its way. At every stop telegrams zitted ahead, 
and hours before the train was due an automobile 
waited by the depot platform at Colt. 



3 oo "_I CONQUERED" 

Daniel Lenox heeded not the enthusiastic train 
men who held watches and calculated the broken 
record as brakes screamed down and the race by 
rail ended. Bag in hand, he strode across the 
cinder platform and entered the waiting auto 
mobile, without a single glance for the group that 
looked at him wonderingly. 

"You know the way to the Thorpe Ranch?" 
he asked the driver of the car. 

"Like a book!" 

"Can you drive all night?" 

"I can." 

"Good! We must be there as early to-morrow 
as possible." 

And ten minutes before noon the next day the 
heavy-eyed driver threw out his clutch and slowed 
the car to a stop before the S Bar S ranch house. 
Saddled horses were there, a score of them stand 
ing with bridle reins down. Sounds of lifted 
voices came from the house, quickly lulled as an 
exclamation turned attention on the arrival. 

From the ample door came a figure tall and 
lean, well poised, shoulders square, feet firm on the 
ground. Pale, true, but surely returning strength 
was evidenced in his very bearing. VB s lips 
moved. His father, halfway to him, stopped. 

"Dad!" 

"Am I on time?" queried the older man. 

"Dadl" 

With a cry the boy was up on him, grasping 
both hands in his. 



TO THE VICTOR 301 

"I didn t dare hope you d want Dad, 
it makes me so 

The other looked almost fiercely into the boy s 
face, clinging to the hands that clutched his, 
shaking them tremblingly now and then. The 
penetrating blue eyes searched out ever}r line 
in the boy s countenance, and the look in them 
grew to be such as VB had never seen before. 

"Did you think I d stay back there in New 
York and let you do all this alone? Did you 
think I would n t come on, in time if I could, and 
tell you how ashamed I am to have ever doubted 
you, my own blood, how mean a thing was that 
which I thought was faith?" 

His gaze went from VB to Gail, coming toward 
him clad all in simple white, flushing slightly as 
she extended her hand. He turned to her, took 
the hand, and looked deep into her big eyes. 
He tried to speak, but words would not come and 
he shook his head to drive back the choking 
emotion. 

"Bless you!" he finally muttered. "Bless 
you both. You re a man Danny. And 
you " 

His voice failed again and he could only remain 
mute, stroking the girl s hand. 

Then Jed came up and greeted the newcomer 
silently, a bit grimly, as though he had just for 
given him something. 

"Come over here, you thi^e," said VB, and 
led them over to where two horses stood together 



302 "_I CONQUERED" 

One was the bay the boy had ridden that after 
noon he charged down the ridge to make the 
great stallion his, and beside him, towering, head 
up, alert, regally self-conscious, stood the Cap 
tain. The bay bore VB s saddle. On the Cap 
tain s back perched one of smaller tree, silver 
mounted and hand tooled, with stirrups that were 
much too short for a man. 

They looked the great horse over silently, 
moving about him slowly, and Danny pointed out 
his fine physical qualities to his father. A rattling 
of wheels attracted them and they looked up to 
see a team of free-stepping horses swing toward 
them, drawing a light buckboard. The vehicle 
stopped and from it stepped a man in the clothing 
of a clergyman. 

" He s here, VB , " Jed muttered. " To be sure, 
an he s got his rope down, too. Th iron s hot; 
th corral gate s open and he s goin to head you 
in. T ain t often you see such a pair of high- 
strung critters goin in so plumb docile, Mister 
Lenox!" 

And from the corner of his eye he saw the man 
beside him wipe his hand across his cheek, as 
though to brush something away. 

The Captain pawed the ground sharply. Then 
he lifted his head high, drew a great breath, and 
peered steadily off toward the distant ridges, 
eagerly, confidently, as though he knew that much 
waited out yonder. 






CALIFORNIA WESTERN UNIVERSITY 
RYAN LIBRARY 



1